Tunneling work on the Scarborough subway extension has begun, more than nine years after the project was initially approved by Toronto City Council.

A massive boring machine, dubbed “Diggy Scardust,” began its journey south from Sheppard Avenue and McCowan Road this week. 

Metrolinx officials have said that the machine will create a single subway tunnel with a diameter of 10.7 metres, which will be large enough to accommodate trains travelling in both directions.

It will churn through about 10 metres of earth each day, the officials say, with crews using a belt conveyor to transport soil and rocks back to the launch shaft site.

“Today, we have hit another major milestone in delivering this much-needed project. Diggy Scardust, the largest tunnel boring machine ever used for a transit project in Canada, has started tunnelling,” a spokesperson for Minister of Transportation Caroline Mulroney told CP24 on Tuesday.

TunnelingThe tunnel-boring machine was lowered into the 28-metre-deep shaft in pieces, beginning in the spring.

It measures 84 metres in length and weighs 2,050 tonnes, which Metrolinx says is about the same as 42 GO train cars.

The machine will eventually be removed from the ground near Midland Avenue and Eglinton Avenue East.

But the 7.8-kilometre subway extension is likely still years away from completion with the latest timeline suggesting that it won’t be operational until 2030.

Meanwhile, the City of Toronto has said that it will shut down the Scarborough RT next fall due to the significant costs associated with maintaining the aging rapid transit line.

A portion of the Scarborough RT’s right-of-way will be turned into a dedicated busway to help provide supplementary service until the completion of the subway extension.

But that project could take until late 2025 to complete, according to the TTC.

The Scarborough RT opened in 1985. It was initially supposed to be replaced by a light rail transit network that would have been completed in 2020 but that project was cancelled under the leadership of former Mayor Rob Ford in 2010.

The Ministry of Transportation says that the new Scarborough subway extension will accommodate over 100,000 daily trips once complete.