HS2 has produced a shortlist of just three names for two of its boring machines, from which we are allowed to choose, thus removing any scope for mischief.
In 2016 the Natural Environment Research Council invited the public to name its new polar research vessel. Social media did its thing and the runaway winner was Boaty McBoatface. In the end NERC called the boat RSS Sir David Attenborough.
The worthy names on HS2’s shortlist are Cecilia, Florence and Marie – names suggested by schools they consulted.
Cecilia – named after Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin, an astronomer and astrophysicist born in Buckinghamshire who became chair of astronomy at Harvard University in the United States of America. This was suggested by students at Chalfont Community College, Buckinghamshire.
Florence – named after Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing, who spent many years in Claydon, Buckinghamshire. This was suggested by students at Meadow High School in Hillingdon.
Marie – named after Marie Curie, the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, and the first person (and only woman) to win one twice. This was suggested by students at Maple Cross JMI and Nursery in Hertfordshire.
The name with the most votes will be given to the first tunnel boring machine (TBM), due to be launched from a site close to the M25 early next year. The 2,000-tonne, 170-metre long machine will be one of two that will dig the 10-mile long Chiltern tunnels.
The second machine, due to be launched a month later, will be given the second most popular name in the public vote.
Both TBMs, now being built by Herrenknecht in Germany, will be operated by Align JV, a joint venture of Bouygues Travaux Publics, Sir Robert McAlpine and VolkerFitzpatrick.
The two TBMs will spend around three years digging the longest and deepest HS2 tunnels, from south of the M25 to South Heath in Buckinghamshire .
There will be 10 TBMs on the first phase of the railway between London and Birmingham eventually, excavating more than 35 miles of tunnel.
HS2 Ltd chief executive Mark Thurston said: “The launch of our first TBM will be a defining moment in the history of HS2 – and our work to deliver high capacity, low carbon high speed rail travel for millions of people across the UK.
“I’d like to thank all the schools that took part in the first stage of the competition and the pupils who suggested the three shortlisted names - Cecilia, Florence and Marie. Now it’s over to the British public to decide which will grace the side of our first TBMs.”
You can vote for your favourite name (from a very short shortlist) at www.hs2.org.uk/tbmvoting. Voting closes on 5th June 2020.