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HS2’s London Tunnels programme nears launch date as first TBM’s arrive

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The start of tunnelling for HS2 in London is set to begin in 2022 and progress has been made with the delivery of two giant Earth Pressure Balance Tunnel Boring Machines (TBMs) to the HS2 site in West Ruislip. The 1,900 tonne machines were delivered to HS2’s Main Work’s Civils Contractor, Skanska Costain STRABAG joint venture (SCS JV) earlier in November from international specialist TBM manufacturer Herrenknecht in Germany.

The two machines will be the first of six TBMs that will bore 13 miles of twin bored tunnels underneath London where HS2 services will run.  They will join eight other machines that will operate on Phase One of the HS2 project between London and the West Midlands, which will dig 64 miles of tunnels in total.

Getting the huge pieces of the TBM to site required a huge amount of logistical coordination, with support from the Police and National Highways. The largest components of the machines were transported by road from Essex ports on vehicles that could support the extra wide loads.

Malcolm Codling, Client Director for HS2, said:

 “The HS2 team at West Ruislip have been preparing the site for over two years to ensure it is ready to launch the first two London TBMs in 2022. This will be an exciting step as we begin our four-year programme of tunnelling under London, showcasing the best of British engineering, and building Britain’s newest low carbon transport network.”

The two machines have been designed specifically to bore predominantly through Lambeth group (a set of geological rock strata), chalk and London clay, and are automated to install 4,220 tunnel segment rings each, to create each 5 mile tunnel.

Around 15 people at a time will operate on each TBM working in shifts, keeping the machines working around the clock for two years, only stopping at Christmas and Easter. A team of approximately 40 people are working to assemble the TBMs, preparing for the launch in 2022.

James Richardson, Managing Director of Skanska Costain STRABAG joint venture, commented:

”Delivering these huge TBMs to West Ruislip was an enormous logistical challenge involving 260 deliveries, including 110 abnormal loads. Our team worked tirelessly to deliver these items efficiently, whilst minimising disruption to our neighbours. All eyes will be on West Ruislip in 2022 as we start to build the London tunnels, reaching depths of 30m below ground.”

As the date for tunnelling to begin draws closer, HS2 will be seeking to name each TBM and has already begun that process, working with local schools in Hillingdon where the TBMs will be launched. In early 2022, a shortlisted set of names will be put to a public vote, to help chose the names for HS2’s fourth and fifth TBM, after Florence, Cecilia and Dorothy who have already started their journeys underground.

Photo credit: HS2 Ltd

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