Next Generation, People, Culture

Keeping Sydney moving
for generations
to come

As a once-in-a-generation infrastructure project, Sydney Metro is transforming the city’s public transportation system. With a visionary approach that also connects communities and inspires students in local schools.

Reading time: 6 minutes

Building the city’s new circulatory system

Of the 113 km of new metro rails, a large percentage will be underground. As with the Metro North West Line, the first Sydney Metro section which opened to great acclaim in 2019, Herrenknecht is providing all 15 tunnel boring machines (TBMs) needed to deliver the other three new Sydney Metro lines.

Hau Wei Ng is the Construction Manager for TBM Tunnels, Gamuda and Laing O’Rourke Consortium on the Sydney Metro West – Western Tunnelling Package (WTP) and Tunnelling Director for Gamuda. He is currently excavating the service facility box in the Western Sydney suburb of Rosehill, which will be used to launch two Double Shield TBMs on their journey.

“Gamuda and Herrenknecht are long-term partners with successful collaborations going back 20 years, including a shared history of making important technical advancements in TBM tunnelling,” Ng says. “I’m proud to be working together on a project that will improve the quality of life for the community in Sydney, helping to connect and create neighborhoods.”

Fascinating technical challenges

This sentiment is echoed by Bob Nowotny, Project Director for the John Holland CPB Contractors Ghella Joint Venture (JCG JV), which is currently delivering the contract to design and build the tunnels for the Sydney Metro West – Eastern Tunnelling Package (ETP). “Every major infrastructure project I have been involved in is a highlight, however, this is my first metro project and will be high on my list of career achievements,” says Nowotny. “We’re delivering social infrastructure that will change the way people move around Sydney – leaving a legacy for generations. It will be something my grandchildren and great grandchildren can be proud of.”

Overseeing the procurement, design, manufacturing and technical support phases of the TBMs is Charles Howarth, Managing Director of Herrenknecht Australia. As well as being fascinated by the technical aspects of the challenge, Howarth says his contribution to this project will almost certainly be one of the most impactful jobs of his whole career. A career in the TBM tunnelling industry which he started more than a quarter of a century ago.

Iconic project all around

“Just like the veins and arteries transporting blood around your body, Sydney Metro will provide the systemic circulation of this great city of Sydney, creating connectivity, opportunity and enhancing how Sydneysiders and visitors work, rest and play,” Charles Howarth says. “Although there is a long way to go, it’s deeply satisfying to be involved in such an iconic project that will make such a huge difference to people today, tomorrow and long into the future.”

FastTracking the Future

One of the most interesting aspects of the Sydney Metro project is its focus on community outreach. The project that epitomizes this is the FastTracking the Future school education program, which allows teachers to use this major infrastructure project in their own backyard as a real-life teaching tool for students.

FastTracking the Future provides syllabus-aligned experiences for students aged 5 to 16. It aims to “support students along the Sydney Metro alignment to become successful learners, confident and creative individuals and active and informed citizens by providing teacher-developed learning activities that link to the project, its purpose, construction and environmental and social context.”

Award winning community outreach

It’s been extremely well received. Since its launch in March 2014, FastTracking the Future has won awards and reached more than 21,300 students across 94 schools through teaching resources, vacation activities, virtual lessons, excursions, competitions, career mentoring and teacher professional development.

Carolyn Hatchwell, Sydney Metro’s Public Communications Coordinator, sums it up: “Sydney Metro launched the Metro Minds STEAM Challenge in 2017 to involve schools along the alignment to be able to engage with a real world problem and use the design-thinking process along the way.”

A student at Sydney’s Catherine McAuley Westmead School confirms the value of project-based learning: “It really helped us to develop our idea. And, I guess it’s pushed it to new lengths, where we can actually see it being implemented in real life.” Another says: “They’ve really helped us, gave us so much advice. For example, about how we can make it so sustainable, environmentally friendly, passenger convenience – it’s just really been amazing.”

“Just like the veins and arteries transporting blood around your body, Sydney Metro will provide the systemic circulation of this great city, creating connectivity, opportunity and enhancing how Sydneysiders and visitors work, rest and play.”

Charles Howarth, Managing Director of Herrenknecht Australia

Grand expansion plans

Sydney Metro’s potential to activate new economic and residential areas of Sydney is one of its greatest promises – new suburbs are already in development, with thousands of new residential units being built or planned along the route. But the development plans don’t stop there. While nothing is set in stone yet, the NSW State Government has recently released visionary plans for further Sydney Metro network rail extensions that will keep the city, and its construction industry, moving for quite some time to come.

Or as Martin Bell, Senior Tunnel Superintendent of the Sydney Metro West – Eastern Tunnelling Package, puts it: "Knowing the generations to come will benefit from our hard work drives me personally to get out of bed each day.”


Penny Jones

is a writer and editor. Jones published a 100-page journal celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Australian Tunnelling Society. She is passionate about telling the remarkable tales that only industry experts have to tell.

Client: Sydney Metro
Application: Metro
10× Double Shield TBM: Diameter: 7,010 mm Cutterhead power: 2,800 kW
Contractors: Sydney Metro
City & Southwest (TSE) John
Holland, CPB Contractors and
Ghella (JHCPBG) Joint Venture

Sydney Metro West, Western
Tunnelling Package (WTP)
Gamuda and Laing O’Rourke
(GLC) Consortium
Tunnelling length: 96 km
1× Mixshield: Diameter: 7,040 mm Cutterhead power: 1,440 Kw
Sydney Metro West, Central
Tunnelling Package (CTP) Acciona
Construction Australia and
Ferrovial Construction Australia
(AFJV) Joint Venture

Sydney Metro West, Eastern
Tunnelling Package (ETP) John
Holland, CPB Contractors and
Ghella (JCG JV) Joint Venture
Geology: Heterogeneous
ground: Hawkesbury sandstone
Complex mixed face tunnelling
through paleo channels under
Sydney Harbor
2× Mixshield: Diameter: 7,020 mm Cutterhead power: 1,440 kW

Sydney Metro - Western Sydney
Airport (SBT) CPB Contractors
and Ghella (CPBG) Joint Venture
2× EPB Shield: Diameter: 7,020 mm Cutterhead power: 2,100 kW

Header image: © Sydney Metro

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Steffen Dubé President and General Manager Herrenknecht Tunnelling Systems USA Inc.
Gerhard Goisser Commercial Manager Herrenknecht Tunnelling Systems USA, Inc.