TBM refurbishment facility planned for Malaysia

20 June 2014

China Railway Tunnelling Equipment Co. Ltd. (CRTE) said it is looking forward to setting up a Tunnel Boring Machine (TBM) refurbishment facility in Malaysia and has budgeted around MYR 20M (USD 6M) for this purpose.

Two of the TBMs excavating a portion of the Sungai Buloh-Kajang (SBK) Line of the Klang Valley MRT will be refurbished, according to CRTE chairman Li Jianbin.

"We prefer to refurbish them in Malaysia," said Li, 52, who has more than 25 years of experience working on tunnels.

He said Malaysia is a natural choice due to the fact that it is surrounded by MRT projects that use mainly new machines.

For example, Singapore requires all metro projects to use only brand new machines. Even the tunnelling contract for the SBK Line had the "brand new only" component built into the requirement for tenders.

Indonesia is starting with its metro tunnelling drive, with the launch of the Jakarta metro construction recently.

All these make for the availability of many TBMs that still have some life left in them.

The refurbishment business outside of China fits in nicely with CRTE's aim to transform itself into a global TBM supplier.

It is already China's largest TBM manufacturer, but competition at home is stiff even though there are more than 700 TBMs of all shapes and sizes running in the republic on any given day.

"We are looking at renting or acquiring a piece of land ranging from 3ha to 4ha within a free trade zone," said managing director of CTE Ltd., CRTE's international division, Don Hall.

CTE initially found a piece of land at the Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) located in Pulau Indah. The size was right, and so was the rental.

However, the soft ground scuttled the deal to set up Malaysia's first TBM refurbishment workshop that could see a workforce of up to 20 skilled technicians at work.

The free trade zone facilitates the entry and exit of TBMs needing refurbishment as well as sending them to their onward destination, without going through tedious Customs paperwork.

"The site in PKFZ would have been great for us except that the ground was too soft. Our machinery imposes exceptionally high loadings of at least 300 tons per square metre on the floor."

CTE is still interested in making its venture work in Malaysia, and is on the hunt for a site as the date draws closer for its two TBMs to be recovered from the ground at the upcoming Pasar Seni MRT station by August and September, respectively.