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Giant tunnel borer named in honour of former RPA Mabel Newill.

Honour for nurse who broke new ground

February 2019

Giant tunnel borer named in honour of former RPA Mabel Newill.

Giant tunnel borer named in honour of former RPA Mabel Newill.

Having a giant tunnel borer named in your honour is not your usual accolade, but for former Royal Prince Alfred Hospital matron Mabel Newill, it’s strangely appropriate.

Matron Newill broke new ground at RPA by introducing sanitation techniques to minimise the spread of infection during the typhoid epidemic that swept through Sydney in the early 1900s.

At the time, almost 230 patients were being admitted to RPA each day, and almost 40 per cent had typhoid.

Matron Newill, who had worked in hospitals in the UK and the United States, recommended using separate trolleys for typhoid patients, installing foot-operated taps to allow nurses to wash their hands without touching anything and management support for staff vaccinations.

By all accounts, she was a force to be reckoned with, which makes NSW Transport’s decision to name its latest tunnel borer in her honour a fitting tribute.

The “Mabel” is one of five mega borers, 150 metres in length, being used to build 31 kilometres of tunnel between Marrickville and Chatswood for the Sydney Metro project.

Mabel, together with Wendy, which launched in January, will each build 6.2 kilometre tunnels to the edge of Sydney Harbour.

Nancy and Mum Shirl, two tunnels that started work late last year from Marrickville, are excavating 8.1 kilometre tunnels which will pass underneath the CBD and on to Barangaroo.

A fifth machine, yet to be launched, has been specially designed to deliver the twin tunnels under Sydney Harbour.

Underground workers around the world look to Saint Barbara for protection so tunneling machines are traditionally given female names.

The five borers will excavate 5.9 million tonnes of rock – enough to fill 940 Olympic swimming pools.

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