Meet 'Elsie' and 'Phyllis': Tunnel-boring machines for Broadway Subway set to launch

Meet ‘"Elsie" and "Phyllis"! Two giant tunnel boring machines have begun excavation on the Broadway Subway line. They'll dig their way from the Great Northern Way-Emily Carr station five kilometres to Cypress Street near the future Arbutus Station. Their job is expected to take about a year.

Construction on Vancouver’s Broadway subway is set to take a major leap forward, with the launch of a pair of massive boring machines that will cut the route’s five-kilometre tunnel.

Each of the two cylindrical tunnel boring machines (TBM) is six metres wide and weights around a million kilograms.

The machines will be launched separately from the site of the future Great Northern Way-Emily Carr station, then spend the next year boring their way west to Cypress Street, near where the Arbutus terminus station will be.

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The machines have been named “Elsie” and “Phyllis” after two prominent women from B.C. history.

Elizabeth ‘Elsie’ MacGill was the world’s first female aeronautical engineer and professional aircraft designer, while Phyllis Munday was a noted mountaineer who founded Girl Guides in B.C. and the province’s first St. John Ambulances Brigade in North Vancouver.

TBM Elsie is set to begin tunneling shortly, while TBM Phyllis is slated for launch this winter after assembly is complete.

The machines, which require a crew of eight to 12 people to operate, can chew out about 18 metres of tunnel per day. The work is expected to carve about 200,000 cubic metres of soil and rock from the ground, which will be removed by conveyor belt.

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Once the boring work is complete, crews will finish construction on the subway’s underground stations and install its tracks and systems.

The finished project will be a 5.7-kilometre extension of the Millennium Line from its current terminus at VCC-Clark station to Arbutus Station, with a projected cost of at least $2.8 billion.

A future expansion from Arbutus Street to UBC is supported by the City of Vancouver, UBC and the TransLink Mayor’s Council, but has not secured funding.



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