Construction on the project, which is being delivered by the Riverlinx consortium, which is made up of abrdn, Invesis, Cintra, Macquarie Capital and SK ecoplant, began in 2020 and has included work to prepare for the start of tunnelling, including the delivery of the launch chamber for the tunnel boring machine (TBM), a conveyor system built to remove excavated materials and also repairs to the river wall made to ensure it is not affected while tunnelling takes place.
Aside from a small section around the tunnel entrances, which will be built using a ‘cut and cover' technique, the two bores that make up the Silvertown Tunnel are being built using one 82m long TBM, named ‘Jill' in honour of Jill Viner, the first female bus driver in London.
The TBM has a cutter face of 11.91m and is so large, that it had to be transported to the UK in pieces and then assembled within the launch chamber. Now launched, it will progress under the river at around 10m every day and once the first tunnel is completed, will then be turned around to head back to Newham and complete the second tunnel.
Across the course of the project, nearly 600,000t of material will be excavated and removed from site via barges along the river as part of the project's wider commitment to keep construction traffic and associated emissions to a minimum. More than 150 barges have already been used to deliver or remove materials and waste from site, removing at least 18,000 lorries from the road. The excavated materials from tunnelling will be transported along the Thames via barge to a former landfill site in Essex as part of a restoration scheme.
Helen Wright, head of the Silvertown Tunnel programme at Transport for London (TfL), said: "The start of tunnelling is a huge step forward for this project and we are committed to working hard to ensure that it is delivered with minimal impact to Londoners. As well as reducing congestion and providing better cross-river bus opportunities, the new tunnel will also help deliver a wide range of local improvements, including dedicated walking and cycling infrastructure and new landscaping. We are working actively on these designs and we hope we can share these with local residents and stakeholders shortly, ahead of starting work on them within the next year."
Juan Angel Martinez, project director at Riverlinx CJV, added: "This really is a terrific achievement which has only been made possible by the excellent effort and collaboration of everyone involved. I'm very proud of everything this project and our team is delivering, knowing how important it is to us and our supply chain to deliver the programme safely and responsibly, providing sustainable opportunities, career growth and benefits to the local communities and our people. Jill's journey is an excellent milestone to celebrate."
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