Removal of Melbourne Metro Tunnel Spoil

It has been announced that the Metro rail tunnel under Swanston Street through the Melbourne CBD will not be drilled by the boring machine, and that 350,000 to 450,000 loads of rock spoil will be mined and removed from there by heavy diesel trucks. The trucks will cause enormous disruption as they travel through the CBD, suburbs and outer highways to the dumping grounds. They will cause road congestion, accidents, and air, noise and sight pollution in the city. All this is unnecessary. People can be saved this disruption in the heart of Melbourne.

Apparently, the boring machine originally planned will be too slow to arrive in Swanston St. for the election timetable. Presumably, this small section of the twin tunnels will be dug by hand using conventional tools.

Another option is to remove the spoil from the pit-heads over the mine shafts in Swanston Street by a temporary conveyor belt running south along Swanston Street above the tram wires to Princes Bridge. There the conveyor belt would be turned at right angles to deposit spoil in a bin built over the Yarra River. Barges would be loaded from under the bin and the spoil carried out to sea. Each barge would carry the spoil of many trucks.

Some people may object to the conveyor as unsightly, even though it is temporary. The conveyor would be as nothing compared to the permanent 15km long ‘SkyRail” through the suburbs. Objections to a conveyor probably would be less than to the many trucks when they begin to run.

The spoil would be dumped in the shallow waters of the sea off Seaholme to the west of Melbourne to build an “island”, connected to land, for many high-rise apartments with balconies and sea views. There would be little sound, no smell, no traffic congestion and no disruption of everyday life of the city in the process of spoil removal.

The island built in Port Phillip Bay would house many people close to the shore. It could be connected to nearby land along a short breakwater or causeway (for which there would be plenty of spoil), or by viaduct, or a bridge (which may be too expensive). It would carry a railway from the Altona line at Seaholme and a road. All the dwellings would be walking distance to the station, local facilities, island parks, fishing piers and perhaps a marina. The island would be clear of any marine parks. It would be a desirable new suburb close towithin 10km of the CBD by rail for jobs. It would contribute to reducing the direct population pressure on Melbourne in the next few decades.

Spoil from the Metro tunnel entrance for the tunnel boring machine at South Yarra could be removed as it arises under Toorak Road, through the station alongside the railway tracks to Cremorne Rail Bridge over the Yarra River by conveyor belt, or by pipe, if it is in slurry form, to a bin. From there it would be carried by barge and dumped to extend the island. It would replace the disruption of many hundreds of thousands more diesel trucks removing tunnel spoil through the suburbs.

In fact, this would be the way to remove all the spoil, if Swanston St. was bored by machine.

When the High Speed Rail project is built to distribute population increase away from the city to two new cities of +1m along the HSR track 200-300km to the east and west in the Victorian regions, within less than 1 hour commuting time of Melbourne CBD, there will be more spoil produced. It would come from the trenches dug next to the suburban railways from Melbourne to Dandenong and to Tullamarine Airport for HSR and suburban rail. Spoil would be collected in the early hours of the morning when scheduled trains are not running. It would be carried by rail onto the island railway and dumped to extend the island even further.


Some 10,000-20,000 dwellings would be built on the island. An additional 100,000-200,000 new low-rise dwellings would be built over the trenches before trains begin to operate itin them.

Valuable new residential land would be created on the island from waste, and on the podiums above railway trenches for building many inner-city dwellings. Both would be near jobs in the CBD by public transport for the resident as the population increases. New cities on the HSR would settle +2m more away from Melbourne to the east in Gippsland and to the west beyond Geelong.

The total number of people settled by these means may be around 2.5-3.5m out of the government projected and planned population increase in Melbourne of about 4m in the next 3-4 decades. This would help safeguard against the loss of Melbourne’s world leading spatial liveability and continue Australia’s world leading prosperity.

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