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HS2 Ltd – Celebrating First Giant London Tunneling Machine

HS2 TBM Operators

Commissioning the first of six tunnel boring machines (TBMs) that will excavate over 26 miles of tunnels beneath the capital, HS2 Ltd celebrated the commence of the next phase of tunneling on the enormous infrastructure project in 7 October 2022.

Due to starting its five-mile journey, HS2 Ltd’s CEO, Mark Thurston was joined by local teacher, Sushila Hirani, after whom one of the tunnel boring machines at the West London site is named.

As the fourth of 10 HS2 tunnel boring machines to be launched at the site, landmark of Sushila highlights the advances being made on building Britain’s new high speed rail network, creating jobs and providing contracts for businesses now.

In order to constructing the second of HS2’s twin-bore tunnels towards central London, TBM Caroline, which has been named after 18th century astronomer Caroline Herschel, is also going to be started up from the West London site later this year.

While the weight of each TBM is over 2,000 tones and their length are 140 meters, they are slated to bore five miles non-stop for 22 months, except Christmas Day and bank holidays, to Greenpark Way in Greenford, where they will be dismantled and lifted from the ground.

In 2023, in order to build a further 3.4mile twin-bore tunnel, two other equally massive tunnel boring machines are due to set off towards Greenpark Way from HS2’s Victoria Road site. Construction of the twin bored tunnels between West Ruislip and the new high speed rail super hub station at Old Oak Common with 8.4miles length will be up to the quartet of TBMs.

Additionally, stretching from Old Oak Common to Euston, another 4.5-mile twin-bore tunnel will complete HS2’s journey to its London terminus.

Each TBM is operated by 15 people, working in shifts. A team of around 40 people assembled the TBMs, with 56 companies involved in getting the site ready and machines launched.

Generally, constructing 64 miles of tunnels on HS2 between London and the West Midlands, will be the consequence of these 10 TBMs operation.

Launching the TBM, HS2 CEO Mark Thurston said:
“The launch of the Tunnel Boring Machines on the longest section of tunnels through London is a significant moment for HS2, and one that demonstrates the momentum that has built behind Britain’s flagship levelling-up project.”

He also added: “The construction of 170 miles of new high speed railway between London and Crewe is now in full swing, supporting 27,000 jobs, nearly 1,000 apprenticeships and contracts for over 2,500 businesses.”

Being manufactured by worldwide TBM specialist Herrenknecht in Germany, Sushila and Caroline are going to be operated by Skanska Costain STRABAG JV (SCS JV).

Further facts about the TBMS:

  • Each machine is 140 meters in length, one and a quarter times the length of a football pitch
  • Each has a cutter head that is 9.84m in diameter, slightly smaller than the machines boring through the Chilterns.
  • They each weigh approximately 2,050 tones, roughly the weight of 20 blue whales.
  • 1.2 million cubic meters of excavated material will be removed, weighing 2.46 million tones.

According to James Richardson, Managing Director of Skanska Costain STRABAG JV:
“Today we start one of the most complex parts of HS2, tunneling from here at West Ruislip towards Euston beneath one of the busiest cities in the world. The huge team effort has enabled some of the most advanced TBMs ever built to be launched. Our team has brought together world class skills along with developing many new people to the industry working on this crucial national infrastructure project.”

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