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Tue June 18 2024

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Tunnel under the Tees completed

20 May Farrans Construction and Joseph Gallagher have completed an innovative tunnelling operation under the River Tees.

TBM Penelope is arriving
TBM Penelope is arriving

The 220-metre tunnel is part of Phase 1 of a new £155m water pipeline to be constructed while protecting the watercourse and the wildlife that relies upon it.

Northumbrian Water’s Project Pipeline: County Durham and Tees Valley will see the construction of around 57km of new pipes connecting Lartington water treatment works with around 200,000 customers.

A specialist tunnel boring machine arrived on site in April to begin its five-week journey between two specially constructed shafts. This operation has created a pathway beneath the river, through which the new pipes will be installed.

Phase 1 of the project will connect Lartington, in Upper Teesdale, with Whorley Hill and Shildon, County Durham, and will be followed by a second phase extending the pipeline from Whorley Hill to Long Newton, connecting to the existing network that serves large parts of Teesside.

In recent months, work has been carried out by main contractor Farrans with tunnelling subcontractor Joseph Gallagher to create the two shafts, one on either side of the river. The western shaft is 8.0 metres in diameter and 32 metres deep, while the eastern shaft is 7.5 metres in diameter and 46 metres deep, the difference being due to the rising topography on the east bank.

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Farrans contracts director Dave Mellor said: “This highly technical and challenging operation has been a best-practice example of innovative civil engineering and we are delighted to have completed it successfully and on schedule. I would like to thank our team, our specialist contractors Joseph Gallagher and our client for collaboratively achieving this important milestone in a project which will secure the water supply to this region for years to come. The moment of break through into the west shaft was a cause for celebration on site following weeks of slow, incremental progress to create the tunnel.”

Northumbrian Water project manager James Dawes said: “This project has been years in the planning, and ensuring that key strategic crossings, such as the River Tees, are done in the best way possible for the local environment and communities, has been vital.

“While it would have been possible to cross the Tees using a pipe-bridge, we had to consider such factors as how this would impact the stunning Teesdale landscape that will be here long after our team have completed the project and moved on.

“The use of no dig techniques, tunnelling or directional drilling is becoming increasingly common in our projects, to reduce the impact on our region’s road and rail networks by reducing the need to dig long trenches. However, this is the first time we have employed it to cross a large river and the teams at Farrans and Joseph Gallagher Limited have done a great job to make this possible.”

This is the moment that tunnel boring machine Penelope broke through to the west shaft, completing her 220-metre journey under the River Tees. The next phase or works includes sealing before twin water mains are installed horizontally through the tunnel.

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