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  • EcoStruxure™ platform delivers the goods to Waterview Tunnel

Outside the tunnel
Photo credit: NZ Transport Agency

New Zealand’s largest-ever roading project – the $1.4NZD billion twin tunnels which form the Waterview Connection – benefits from a sophisticated Schneider Electric infrastructure that enhances safety and simplifies operation.

Four years in the making, the three-lane, 2.4km tunnels are the longest in the country and their construction consumed a daunting list of materials – 74,500m3 of aggregate, nearly five kilometres of drainage pipes and 140,000m2 of paint.


Their electrical inventory is just as impressive: 4,000 lights, 62 ventilation fans, 50 kilometres of cable trays and 400 kilometres of cabling and wiring (weighing 270 tons).

Making sure all the electrical equipment was delivered on time to the project construction team fell to Schneider Electric. The company was appointed sole-supplier for the electrical components delivering the tunnels’ control infrastructure – a comprehensive package incorporating high-voltage and low-voltage equipment, transformers, switchboards, switchgear, circuit breakers, SCADA, PLCs, variable speed drives, soft starters and motor controls.

Designing the system’s switchboards and managing their integration into the WCA system was the responsibility of Auckland’s Lynn Electrical, a key Board Builder partner of Schneider Electric. The tunnel will carry more than 100,000 cars a day, and safety, says company owner Steven Shrubb, was a major design consideration.

“A key decision was splitting the tunnel’s power supply into two parts, requiring identical switchboards at both ends of the tunnel. This halved the distance of the cable run to 1.2 kilometres per side, and it greatly reduced voltage drop problems.


“We also divided the power supply into two components – 690-volts and the more conventional 415-volts. The heavier voltage catered for the tunnels’ 62 extraction and ventilation fans, and again, the 690-volt cabling helped to reduce voltage losses.

“The design also incorporated built-in redundancy – there are two, separate power supply systems, with separate switchboards. If one system fails for whatever reason, the back-up is immediately available.”


Auckland switchboard manufacturer MGE another key Board Builder partner of Schneider Electric built the 690-volt switchboards, including the switchboards for the variable speed drives for the 62 fans and the multi-case circuit breakers.

Lighting and drainage were also important design issues. There are cross-passages (side exits) at regular intervals along the length of the tunnel, allowing people to safety exit in the event of an accident. Large pumps take care of any flooding. These systems, along with other tunnel control systems, demand real-time monitoring.


Integrating all of it, says Steven Shrubb, was very easy thanks to the single-supplier arrangement with Schneider Electric. “The various system components communicate immediately – no need to find compatibility between different protocols.


“And because the system is built around Schneider Electric’s EcoStruxure platform, components such as variable speed drives and PLCs are automatically ‘found and identified’ on the network. It’s pretty seamless and it helps with faster commissioning.”


EcoStruxure is an open, interoperable, IoT-enabled system architecture and platform. It delivers enhanced value around safety, reliability, efficiency, sustainability, and connectivity. It leverages advancements in IoT, mobility, sensing, cloud, analytics and cybersecurity to deliver Innovation at Every Level. EcoStruxure has been deployed in 450,000+ installations, with the support of 9,000 system integrators, connecting over a billion devices.

A single-source supplier is also advantageous, he points out, for ongoing support and back-up. “It means there is one point of contact rather than multiple points of contact – you don’t have to go hunting to find help. It’s a one-stop resource.”


Operators monitoring the traffic through the tunnels are aided by the SCADA system.

“It provides instant access to vital data,” says Steven Shrubb. “Which fans are running, how fast they’re running, which pumps are being used, which lights are on. It also monitors the power supply, and generates immediate alerts if a problem is detected. It provides a comprehensive, real-time overview of the infrastructure – and it’s all supported by multiple cameras feeding visuals to the control room screens.”

SCADA is particularly useful for tunnel maintenance, he adds. “Inside every one of the numerous cross-passages is a switchboard panel. If a light, pump or fan fails anywhere in the tunnel, the operators can easily pinpoint its location because the SCADA is monitoring all the panels. And that obviously translates into a speedier fix and the tunnels’ continued reliability.”

The Waterview tunnel is already transforming the way people are moving around Auckland with considerably reduced travel times and improved productivity.

Construction Team

The project was delivered by the Well-Connected Alliance, comprising the Transport Agency, Fletcher Construction, McConnell Dowell Constructors, Parsons Brinckerhoff, Beca Infrastructure, Tonkin and Taylor, and Japanese construction company Obayashi Corporation.

The System

The tunnels’ electrical infrastructure was supplied in different segments.

MV Distribution

• GHA 22kV switchgear, controls, PSU and communication system
• Trihal 22kV/690v and 22kV/415v transformers
• Supply 110v DC distribution boards, battery banks and chargers
• Interface with PMCS site-wide communication backbone and NZTA (DYNAC) remote control room

LV Distribution

• Detailed design of 690V & 415V Main switchboards, Motor Control Schedules, MCCB Panels and Distribution Boards

Other LV components

• Detailed functional description of the Low Voltage System including changeover arrangement and interlocking of main panels and UPS panels
• Design and Supply of Busduct systems
• Specification and supply of backup UPS, batteries, chargers
• Supply of VSD, Soft Starters • Supply Active harmonic filter, and Power factor correction
• Factory Acceptance testing where applicable (IE Switchboards) and Site Acceptance testing for drives


(PMCS) & Remote I/O cabinet equipment supply – layout, design and build of cabinets.
PLC (PMCS) Hardware supply – procurement of Site PLCs (2 main 2 backup), assist with site integration.

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