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First HS2 tunnelling machines arrive in the UK

Jamal Niaz morson news

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The first tunnelling equipment for HS2 has arrived in the UK ahead of work on the mega-project starting in spring.

The two 170m long tunnel boring machines were delivered in more than a 1000 separate parts to a construction site in Hertfordshire, after being built in Germany. The TBMs will be assembled over the coming months before they start digging the Chiltern tunnels next year.

Weighing at 2,000 tonnes, the machines will work non-stop for three and a half years to complete the longest stretch of tunnels on HS2 at ten miles. Each TBM will be operated by crews of up to 20 people working 12-hour shifts.

At peak construction, HS2 will support more than 30,000 jobs with at least 2,000 apprenticeship opportunities created. A surge in the number of people taking up apprentice roles is expected in the next two years.

Conditions for workers have been described as “quite comfortable” and large enough to allow for “a form of social distancing” according to Senior TBM engineer James Reilly.

The first two TBMs will be operated by central section contractor, Align – the joint venture between Bouygues Travaux Publics, Sir Robert McAlpine and VolkerFitzpatrick.

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.”

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.

HS2 Ltd chief executive Mark Thurston added:

“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.”

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