Image shows a large boring machine

Wrapping up a big year for Scarborough’s new subway extension – See the new video

Construction officially began on Scarborough’s subway extension in June 2021, and crews continue to make great progress on delivering this project. Here’s a look back at a big year of milestones on the Scarborough Subway Extension.

When it comes to progress on Scarborough’s new subway extension, a lot can happen in six months.

Just over half a year ago, the northeast corner of Sheppard Avenue East and McCowan Road in Scarborough looked very different. Peeking through the viewing windows at the site today, you’ll see a massive excavation that will be used to lower the project’s tunnel boring machine (TBM) into the ground.

As crews continue to prepare the site for this machine, Metrolinx News is highlighting the progress in 2021 on the subway extension.

Clearing the way

This past spring, crews started work to excavate a massive pit on the northeast corner of Sheppard Avenue East and McCowan Road. The former buildings at that location were removed to make way for the large construction equipment needed to dig the 25-metre deep launch shaft for the TBM.

Clearing the launch shaft site for construction. (Metrolinx photo)

Utilities were disconnected and the site was inspected for safety before excavators safely completed the demolition.

Digging In

After the area was cleared, a crucial next step in creating the launch shaft was drilling the concrete piles underground. These piles created a water-tight barrier, or what is referred to as a shoring system, around the perimeter of the shaft.

It uses a series of concrete columns with steel reinforcements, called piles, to create a strong barrier that holds soil and water in place and out of the excavated area.

Over 300 piles were drilled at the site to create the perimeter prior to shaft excavation beginning in August.

close up of a large digging machine
Secant pile drilling at the launch shaft site. (Strabag photo)

Digging Out

After piling for the launch shaft was complete, construction crews turned their attention to digging out earth for the launch shaft itself. For an excavation that will measure 80 metres long, 29 metres wide, and 26 metres deep when complete, that’s a lot of material to dig up.

Excavation at the launch shaft site. (Strabag photo)

Name That Boring Machine

As work continued at the launch shaft site, the TBM was being assembled halfway across the world to build out the single-largest subway tunnel in Toronto.

Pieces of the TBM being loaded onto Jumbo Vision.
Pieces of the TBM being loaded onto the Jumbo Vision. (Strabag photo)

This custom TBM was manufactured by industry specialists at Herreknecht, in a small German town called Schwanau. After completing factory testing in September, the machine was taken apart and packed into shipping containers before it began its voyage across the Atlantic to Canada.

The ship carrying the TBM recently arrived in Oshawa. It will be assembled at the launch site before being lowered into the ground next spring.

An aerial photo of the ship carrying the TBM arriving in the Oshawa port
An aerial photo of the ship carrying the TBM arriving in the Oshawa port. (HOPA Ports photo)

As the TBM was being prepared for its voyage, Metrolinx launched a naming contest for the boring behemoth.

After receiving more than 200 submissions from the community, five names were shortlisted for the community to vote on. Visit the contest page and vote for your favourite name before Dec. 22. The winning name will be announced in the new year.

Scarborough’s tunnel boring machine during factory testing in Germany
Scarborough’s tunnel boring machine during factory testing in Germany. (Metrolinx photo)

Progress on Stations

As work continued to prepare for tunnelling, Metrolinx and Infrastructure Ontario also started the search for experts to build the stations, lay down the tracks. and install all the technology that connects them. The Request for Qualifications (RFQ) for this contract launched in September and procurement is expected to continue into the new year.

Looking to the new year

As 2021 comes to a close, Metrolinx and Strabag are already looking to the new year.

Construction continues to progress rapidly with new depths being reached every week to prepare for the start of tunnelling.

Metrolinx and Strabag will also be hosting a virtual tradeshow on Friday, Jan. 28, 2022.

An aerial view of the launch shaft site in December as excavation continues.
An aerial view of the launch shaft site in December as excavation continues. (Strabag photo)

Just like visiting a tradeshow in person, the virtual event will have guest speakers talking about job and apprenticeship opportunities for the project and local vendors, services, and community organizations set up virtual booths for visitors.

Registration for vendors is now open, and more details about how to attend this virtual tradeshow will come in the new year.

Follow the project on Twitter for more stories and pictures of progress in 2022.

Metrolinx’s community relations team can also be reached for questions or comments through a 24/7 hotline at (416) 202-7900 or by email at

Story by Joshua Patel, Metrolinx senior advisor, Subway Program