HS2 celebrates as first giant London tunnelling machine is switched on

HS2 has celebrated the start of the next phase of tunnelling on the UK’s enormous infrastructure project, launching the first of six tunnel boring machines (TBM) that will dig over 26 miles of tunnels under the country’s capital city.

 The TBM named Sushila is one of a pair that will tunnel underneath London as part of the major UK infrastructure project

The TBM named Sushila is one of a pair that will tunnel underneath London as part of the major UK infrastructure project

HS2's CEO, Mark Thurston was joined by local teacher, Sushila Hirani, after whom one of the tunnel boring machines at the West London site is named, as it begins on its five-mile journey. Sushila is the fourth of 10 HS2 TBM to be launched.

Later this year a second TBM, named after 18th century astronomer Caroline Herschel, will also be launched from the West London site to build the second of HS2's twin-bore tunnels towards central London.

Speaking about the launch, the HS2 Minister, Kevin Foster MP, said: "This launch is a landmark moment in the delivery of HS2, helping link London to Birmingham and unlock better connections, quicker journeys and create thousands of skilled jobs across the North and Midlands.

"Already well underway, HS2 is set to revolutionise journeys for communities throughout the country, boost local economies and, at its peak, support more than 34,000 jobs across the UK."

Each weighing over 2,000t and measuring 140m in length, both TBMs will bore five miles non-stop for 22 months, except Christmas Day and bank holidays, to Greenpark Way in Greenford, where they will be dismantled and lifted from the ground.  

Separately, two other equally massive tunnel boring machines will set off towards Greenpark Way from HS2's Victoria Road site in 2023 to build a further 3.4-mile twin-bore tunnel. Together the quartet of TBMs will build 8.4 miles of twin bored tunnels between West Ruislip and the new high-speed rail super hub station at Old Oak Common.

Another 4.5-mile twin-bore tunnel extending from Old Oak Common to Euston will complete HS2's journey to its London terminus.

Each TBM is operated by 15 people, working in shifts. A team of around 40 people assembled the TBMs, with 56 companies involved in getting the site ready and machines launched. 

In total, the 10 TBMs will create 64 miles of tunnels on HS2 between London and the West Midlands.  

Launching the TBM, HS2 CEO Mark Thurston said: "The launch of the tunnel boring machines on the longest section of tunnels through London is a significant moment for HS2, and one that demonstrates the momentum that has built behind Britain's flagship levelling-up project.

"The construction of 170 miles of new high-speed railway between London and Crewe is now in full swing, supporting 27,000 jobs, nearly 1,000 apprenticeships and contracts for over 2,500 businesses."  

The TBM Sushila and Caroline will be operated by Skanska Costain STRABAG JV (SCS JV). The machines are manufactured by TBM specialist Herrenknecht in Germany.    

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