HS2’s London tunnels programme nears launch date as first TBMs arrive

Press release 17/12/2021 11:00 CET

Our Skanska Costain STRABAG joint venture, working for HS2 on delivering the London tunnels part of the project, will begin assembly ready for launch in 2022.

Two giant tunnel boring machines have arrived on site in West Ruislip

The delivery of two giant Earth Pressure Balance Tunnel Boring Machines (TBMs) to the HS2 site in West Ruislip means the start of tunnelling in London is set to begin in 2022. The 1,900 tonne machines were delivered to our Skanska Costain STRABAG joint venture (SCS JV) in November from international specialist TBM manufacturer Herrenknecht in Germany.

The two machines will be the first of six TBMs that will bore 13 miles of twin bored tunnels underneath London where HS2 services will run. They will join eight other machines that will operate on Phase One of the HS2 project between London and the West Midlands, which, combined, will dig 64 miles of tunnels in total.

Getting the huge pieces of the TBMs to site required a huge amount of logistical coordination, with support from the Police and National Highways. The largest components of the machines were transported by road from Essex ports on vehicles that could support the extra wide loads.

Malcolm Codling, Client Director for HS2, says: “The HS2 team at West Ruislip have been preparing the site for over two years to ensure it is ready to launch the first two London TBMs in 2022. This will be an exciting step as we begin our four-year programme of tunnelling under London, showcasing the best of British engineering, and building Britain’s newest low carbon transport network.”

The two machines have been designed specifically to bore predominantly through Lambeth Group, (a set of geological rock strata), chalk and London clay and are automated to install 4,220 tunnel segment rings each, to create each five mile tunnel.

Around 15 people at a time will operate each TBM, working in shifts, keeping the machines operating around the clock for two years, only stopping at Christmas and Easter. A team of approximately 40 people are working to assemble the TBMs and preparing for the launch in 2022.

James Richardson, Managing Director of Skanska Costain STRABAG joint venture, says: ”Navigating large parts of our TBMs across Europe and into London while minimising disruption to our neighbours was an enormous logistical challenge. Now it’s time to assemble some of the most technically advanced machines ever at our West Ruislip site, ready for launch in early 2022.”

As the date for tunnelling to begin draws closer, HS2 will be looking to name each TBM and has already begun the process working with local schools in Hillingdon where the TBMs will be launched. In early 2022, a shortlisted set of names will be put to a public vote, to help choose the names for HS2’s fourth and fifth TBM, after Florence, Cecilia and Dorothy which have already started their journeys underground.