Japanese mega-drill ready to grind out Saigon's first metro line

By Huu Cong   May 24, 2017 | 04:00 am PT
The 70m beast will be boring through the city's rocky depths at around 12m per day.

Ho Chi Minh City is looking to kickstart the construction of  Metro Line No.1 this week with the help of a 300-ton tunnel boring machine (TBM) from Japan that will dig the tunnel connecting the line's first two underground stations.

The giant drill is expected to begin digging the 781-meter-long tunnel from the city's Opera House to Ba Son Station on Friday, according to Duong Huu Hoa, head of the line's management authorities.

Hoa told a meeting on Wednesday that the Japanese contractors and their Vietnamese coutnerparts are preparing the TBM to begin work on the line that will eventually connect Ben Thanh Market and Suoi Tien Park.

"It is the first time this sort of advanced technology has been used in Vietnam," said Hoa.

The machine's first mission will be to bore through the rocky depths of the city's midtown area, creating a tunnel running along Nguyen Sieu Street and the side of Saigon Opera House.

Construction of the two underground stations at either end has already been completed.

The $4 million gargantuan drill from Japan is 70m long and was moved to Vietnam at the beginning of the year. The machine is equipped with sharp, tungsten carbide shears and is capable of digging up earth safely and creating walls for a 6.79m diameter tunnel 17m underground.

Compared with conventional tunneling methods, the TBM method is said to minimize traffic congestion and the impacts on existing constructions, as well as requiring less space.

Due to its ability to collect and transport soil after excavation, the machine produces less dust, vibrations and noise than other tunneling methods and is considered a environmentally friendly construction method by experts.


The TBM is dubbed a subterranean 'monster'. Photo by Japanese company Foundation Engineering and Underground Construction JSC (FECON).

The Ben Thanh Market - Suoi Tien Park project, with total investment of VND47 trillion ($2.49 billion), was started in August 2012. It features a 20km long rail line that runs through districts 1, 2, 9, Binh Thanh, Thu Duc and Di An in Binh Duong Province.

Over 17km of the line will be elevated, while 2.6km will be underground. The project is expected to open to the public in 2020.

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