Cross River Rail TBMs given names of iconic Queensland women

Left Else Shepherd AM, right Merle Thornton AM. Both images courtesy of the University Of Queensland Australia.

Twin Tunnel Boring Machines (TBMs) set to work on the Cross River Rail project have been named after two groundbreaking Queensland women.

The names come in honour of each woman’s contribution to the state. The first TBM to launch will be named ‘Else’ after trailblazing engineer Else Shepherd AM, while the second will be known as ‘Merle’ in honour of pioneering feminist Merle Thornton AM.

Minister for Transport and Main Roads Mark Bailey said these two women have forged ahead, led the way and helped create a better future for this state.

“Professor Shepherd has blazed the way for women entering fields such as engineering, while Mrs Thornton has been at the forefront of women’s rights and social justice issues in Queensland,” he said.

“It’s an honour to be able to name these groundbreaking machines – which will pave the way for the Palaszczuk Government’s largest public transport project – after two of Queensland’s groundbreaking women.”

Professor Shepherd was the one of the first two women to graduate with an electrical engineering degree in Queensland.

“By being a female engineer when there weren’t many of us, I hope I’ve given other women the courage to do what they want to do – there’s nothing stopping us,” Shepherd said.

Thornton, a feminist activist, is best known for her iconic protest at the Regatta Hotel in 1965 when she and a friend chained themselves to a bar rail to challenge women’s exclusion from public bars in Queensland.

“I wouldn’t say I’ve had a ‘boring’ life, but I have always tried to cut through on various social issues, so perhaps it is fitting to have my name on one of these massive tunnelling machines,” Thornton joked.

Tunnel Boring Machines are named after women following an old mining tradition in which miners would pray to the patron saint, Saint Barbra.

Bailey said TBM Else is being transported to Cross River Rail’s Woolloongabba site in parts, where it will be reassembled in preparation for launch, while TBM Merle’s parts will start arriving on site this month.

Both TBMs are expected to be launched early this year and will tunnel under the Brisbane River to Albert Street Station in mid-2021. They will then continue to the Roma Street Station before emerging at the projects northern entrance in Normanby.

“With the TBMs leading the way, 2021 will be the year of construction and tunnelling, and creating more jobs as part of Queensland’s economic recovery plan,” Bailey said.


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