Suburban Rail Loop project announces ‘ground freezing’ to reduce Melbourne impact

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Suburban Rail Loop project announces ‘ground freezing’ to reduce Melbourne impact

Suburban Rail Loop
Credit: Suburban Rail Loop Authority
Words by Staff Writer

Construction is forging ahead at all six Suburban Rail Loop (SRL) stations in preparation for the start of tunnelling, with the announcement of a new 'ground freezing' technique.

Tunnelling on the Suburban Rail Loop project is set to significantly reduce disruption to residents and traffic around work sites.   

Since contracts were awarded for the first major tunnelling section between Cheltenham and Glen Waverley, with workers on the Suburban Rail Loop trying to deliver better outcomes for the community to reduce impacts with groundbreaking technology. This comes after yesterday’s announcement that six new train stations are set to open across Melbourne this winter.

Suburban Rail Loop tunnelling begins

  • Construction is going ahead at all six Suburban Rail Loop stations
  • A ‘ground freezing’ technique will also be used to build safety passages between the twin tunnels
  • The government says passengers will be travelling through the Suburban Rail Loop by 2035

Stay up to date with what’s happening in and around Melbourne here.

A ground freezing technique

Following community feedback, the contractor has devised a more efficient way to reduce the impact of tunnelling on residents – with tunnel boring machines (TBMs) to be launched from a recycling site in Clarinda instead of the nearby train stabling site in Heatherton, and four TBMs to be used instead of six. 

A ‘ground freezing’ technique will also be used to build safety passages between the twin tunnels below ground which will prevent disruptions for nearly 100 homes and businesses, while avoiding 90 per cent of possible road closures. Ground freezing is actually quite an old technique, in which coolant pipes are installed that extract heat and freeze the soil, reinforcing the tunnel.

Like other major projects, the Suburban Rail Loop project team will constantly review the construction program to minimise disruption for local residents, traders and motorists and to safeguard key existing infrastructure such as major sewer lines. 

In order to deliver this city-shaping project, there will be a series of community information sessions and pop-ups for people to learn more, to speak with experts and to have their say – as part of an ongoing and comprehensive SRL consultation process.

Suburban Rail Loop construction well underway

Construction is well underway on SRL East between Cheltenham and Box Hill, with more than 1,200 people working on the project ahead of tunnelling commencing in 2026, and trains taking passengers by 2035.

The Tunnels South contract to build 16 kilometres of twin tunnels between Cheltenham and Glen Waverley was awarded last year to Suburban Connect, a global consortium of renowned companies CPB Contractors, Ghella and Acciona Construction.

SRL East is creating up to 8,000 direct local jobs in construction, and at least 12 per cent of hours on Tunnels South section will be worked by trainees, apprentices and cadets – at least a third of these by women. 

What is the Suburban Rail Loop?

Originally forecast to cost in the region of $50 billion dollars – and more recently (and controversially) forecast to cost a whopping $216.7 billion by completion – the Suburban Rail Loop project begun construction in 2022.

The underground rail loop could connect stations including Cheltenham, Clayton, Monash, Glen Waverley, Burwood and Box Hill, Doncaster, Heidelberg, Bundoora, Reservoir, Fawkner and Broadmeadows, as well as the perenially delayed Melbourne Airport Rail Link.

Dubbed the “biggest public transport project in history” when it was announced by Daniel Andrews back in 2018, the loop is intended to “link every major rail line from the Frankston line all the way to Werribee making it easier to get around Melbourne between suburbs and to the airport.”

The government says the Suburban Rail Loop will not only transform our public transport network, but bring thousands more homes, jobs and services to the areas around the new SRL stations.

“Delivering major projects of this scale requires ongoing consultation with the community and stakeholders – and we will continue to actively look for ways to minimise disruptions as much as we can,” Minister for Suburban Rail Loop Danny Pearson said.

“This is a great outcome for the communities near Suburban Rail Loop work sites – and I can’t wait to see tunnelling get underway in 2026 so that passengers are travelling through the SRL by 2035.”

“It’s great to see the SRL project team applying its technical expertise and global experience to minimise construction impacts to the local community,” Member for Clarinda Meng Heang Tak added.

Locals can provide their feedback until 30 June 2024 via