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Sat February 27 2021

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First HS2 tunnel boring machines arrive on site

8 Dec 20 The first two tunnel boring machines (TBMs) for the HS2 project have now arrived in the UK, ready to start work in the new year.

The components of the TBMs on site in west Lodnon, waiting for reassembly
The components of the TBMs on site in west Lodnon, waiting for reassembly

The TBMs have been made by Herrenknecht in southwest Germany. At 2,000 tonnes and 170 metres long, they were transported to the UK in more than 300 separate shipments over the course of two months.

The parts are now at the Chiltern tunnel southern portal site in west London ready to be reassembled, tested and commissioned.

The two machines – named Florence and Cecilia – will be digging the two bores of the 10-mile-long Chiltern tunnel. This is the longest tunnel on the HS2 project and the first to start construction. The TBMS are expected to take three years to complete their journeys through the mix of chalk and flint, progressing at an average of 15 metres a day.

Each tunnel will require 56,000 segments – which will all be made on site. A crew of 17 people will operate each TBM, working in shifts to keep the machines running 24/7. They will be supported by over 100 people on the surface, managing the logistics.

These first two TBMs will be operated by HS2 central section contractor, Align – a joint venture of Bouygues Travaux Publics, Sir Robert McAlpine, and VolkerFitzpatrick.

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Align project director Daniel Altier said: “Now that the parts have arrived the detailed job of assembling and commissioning the machines has begun. There are also considerable other activities continuing on our site to prepare for the launch of Florence and Cecilia next year. This includes the construction of a factory that will manufacture the concrete segments to be used to line the tunnel and a slurry treatment plant that will process material from the tunnels.”

HS2 Ltd chief executive Mark Thurston said: “The launch of our first tunnelling machines will be a defining moment in the history of HS2 – and our work to deliver a high speed railway that will offer a low-carbon alternative for journeys across the UK.

“Construction is now well underway, with more than 13,000 jobs supported by the project, both directly and in our UK-wide supply chain. The arrival of Florence and Cecilia is a major step forward and our expert team will now work to assemble, test and commission them before their launch next year.”

Florecne was fully assembled in the Herrenknecht factory before being stripped down for transportation
Florecne was fully assembled in the Herrenknecht factory before being stripped down for transportation

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