High Speed 2 (HS2) main works contractor Align JV is planning to utilise robots to improve the efficiency of two tunnel boring machines (TBMs).

The plan involves installing an onboard Krokodyl robot in the two TBMs that will bore 16km-long Chiltern tunnels.

The robot will automate several tasks such as removing wooden spacers between tunnel segments and inserting connection dowels, reducing the need for workers to operate in this hazardous area.

As the TBM advances, the tunnel segments are erected behind to form a structural watertight ring to support the ground loads.

Subsequently, a second feature of the robot, called Dobydo, installs the dowels into position to prepare the segment to be slotted into place.

The two TBMs are slated to launch early next year.

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HS2 Tunnelling head Eddie Woods said: “Safety is a key priority for HS2 and the introduction of these innovations that essentially remove personnel from harm’s way is an excellent example of the sort of initiatives we are pleased to see implemented on the project.

“It is one of the ways that ‘safe at heart’ can be achieved by minimising exposure in high-risk locations.”

The Align JV features Bouygues Travaux Publics, Sir Robert McAlpine and VolkerFitzpatrick.

Align underground construction director Didier Jacques said: “A lot of work has been undertaken by all concerned that has enabled us to develop and introduce this robot, thereby reducing the risk to our personnel, operating in our state-of-the-art TBMs.

“We are very proud of these innovations which we would be happy to share with tunnelling teams working on other projects across the world, to help reduce the likelihood of accidents and injuries.”

Last month, it was reported that the cost of building the HS2 project had increased by £800m due to construction complexities.