Tunneling on the biggest public transport project ever built in Victoria – The Metro Tunnel – will start next week.

Premier Daniel Andrews and Transport Infrastructure Minister Jacinta Allan joined the workers at the future North Melbourne Station site today to wish the project’s first Tunnel Boring (TBM) Joan – name after Victoria’s first female Premier Joan Kirner – well on her journey towards Kesington, digging the Metro Tunnel.

A traditional Aboriginal smoking ceremony was carried out to mark the occasion, and the TBM was blessed by local priest Father Anthony Bernal.

In line with long-held tradition on tunnelling projects, work at the site has been overseen by Saint Barbara, the patron saint of tunnellers and miners since the 1500s.

The second TBM, named Meg after Australian women cricket captain Meg Lanning, will also soon begin digging.

Each TBM is 7.28 metres wide, 120 metres long and weighs more than 1,100 tonnes. They will dig 24 hours a day for around three years, excavating the twin nine-kilometre tunnels and sealing them with curved concrete segments.

The TBMs are equipped with a state-of-the-art computerised navigation system and 100-tonne cutterheads that will drive through hard rock and soil under Melbourne at a rate of up to 10 metres a day.

The Metro Tunnel will free up space in the City Loop to run more trains, more often right across the city – creating capacity for more than half a million extra passengers a week in the peak periods. The project is expected to be complete in 2025.

For more information, visit metrotunnel.vic.gov.au