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Tunnels carved beneath Sydney’s busy streets offer glimpse of future

It is a world away from construction of the last train line to be built under central Sydney. Opened 40 years ago, the Eastern Suburbs railway line was dug using explosives.

At Pitt Street, contractors have excavated about 92,000 tonnes of sandstone to form the station’s underground cavern stretching beneath Park Street, in the north, to near Bathurst Street.

Construction workers near the tunnel boring machine named Nancy, which broke through at the new Pitt Street station on Friday.

Construction workers near the tunnel boring machine named Nancy, which broke through at the new Pitt Street station on Friday.Credit:Wolter Peeters

Transport for NSW secretary Rodd Staples said construction of the metro line under the CBD was an “incredibly complex engineering task”.

“To think that we have got hundreds of thousands of people walking around above us today, really not understanding what is happening below them,” he said in one of the tunnels on Friday.

“In just four years’ time, those people will be able to come down some escalators and they will be standing right where we are and jumping on a metro train every four minutes.”

Those filing in and out of the new station will do so by escalators, which will emerge at two locations on Pitt Street. Unlike a new metro station at Martin Place, however, the Pitt Street station will not have an underground pedestrian link to the nearby City Circle line.

Transport Minister Andrew Constance in the tunnels for the new station on Friday.

Transport Minister Andrew Constance in the tunnels for the new station on Friday.Credit:Wolter Peeters

The Pitt Street station will act as a relief valve for Town Hall station, which is creaking under pressure from record growth in patronage. Over the last five years, trips on the rail network have surged from 300 million to 420 million annually.

Transport Minister Andrew Constance said there was “no doubt” that the new station and others in the CBD would ease pressure on the City Circle line, which was facing “an enormous challenge”.

“All trains lines in this city currently lead to the City Circle, and if something goes wrong in one part of the network, it has a cascading effect,” he said.

“Town Hall … wasn’t designed for the patronage we are seeing today. This now gives enormous relief, once opened, to Town Hall.”

The next stop for the boring machine will be the metro station at Martin Place. Tunnelling of the entire line is expected to be completed by the first half of next year.

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