Giant TBM launched in Midlands for HS2

HS2 CEO Mark Thurston pushes the button to start the TBM

A 2,000-tonne tunnel boring machine (TBM) has been launched in the Midlands to dig a one-mile tunnel under Long Itchington Wood in Warwickshire.

Around 170 engineers have been working on the 125m-long TBM during its construction and assembly. A tunnelling team will now work around the clock in shifts to operate it for around five months.

The TBM is named ‘Dorothy’ after Dorothy Hodgkin, who in 1964 became the first British woman to win the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

This will be the first HS2 tunnel to be completed on the project, with the machine set to break through its first bore at the south portal in spring 2022. It will then be disassembled and taken back to the north portal to dig the second bore, which is due to be completed in early 2023.

The tunnel aims to preserve the ancient woodland above. The woods are classified as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). The machine will remove a total of 250,000 cu m of mudstone and soil which will be transported to the onsite slurry treatment plant where the material is separated out before being reused on embankments and landscaping along the route.

Michael Dyke, managing director of Balfour Beatty VINCI, the joint venture overseeing the works, said: “Today represents a significant milestone, culminating months of hard work and representing a vitally important moment in the delivery of Britain’s new high-speed railway line.

“As Dorothy, our cutting-edge tunnel boring machine, sets off on her one-mile journey, our work across the northern section of HS2 continues to progress at pace. Over the next few months, we’ll be building on our efforts to recruit the 7,000 people required across the Midlands to help us shape the UK’s future infrastructure landscape; those who will see their work enjoyed for many years.”

Balfour Beatty VINCI has pledged to provide 30 Kickstart placements this year, working in partnership with the Prince’s Trust, as part of its commitment to support young people from the local area into work. Kickstart is a government-funded initiative aimed at creating job placements for 16-to-24-year-olds who are on universal credit and at risk of long-term unemployment.

HS2 CEO Mark Thurston said: “Today is another major milestone for HS2. You can see the real progress the project is making as we launch this TBM on one of HS2’s largest sites in the Midlands, contributing to massive job creation in the region.

“More than 20,000 jobs and over 650 apprenticeships are already being supported by HS2, which is set to transform transport links between Britain’s major cities, free up space on the rail network for more freight and local services, and support the UK’s transition to net zero carbon emissions.”

In total there will be 10 HS2 TBMs on phase one, working to create 64 miles of tunnel between London and the West Midlands for Britain’s high-speed rail project.

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