The first two tunnel boring machines (TBMs) for the high-speed HS2 project, named Florence and Cecilia, have arrived in the UK.
The 170m long TBMs were manufactured by Herrenknecht at its facility in South-West Germany. The 2,000t machines were delivered in more than 300 separate shipments over the course of two months.
The two TBMs will now be reassembled and tested before they commence operations early next year.
HS2 chief executive Mark Thurston said: “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 tunnelling machines will be used to dig the two bores of the ten-mile-long Chiltern tunnel, the longest tunnel on the HS2 project.
The TBMs will work non-stop for more than three years to dig two separate tunnels for north and southbound trains at a rate of speed of 15m per day. Besides digging the tunnel, the machines will also line it with concrete wall segments.
The Align joint venture (JV), HS2’s main works contractor, will be operating the two machines.
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.”
Last month, Align JV announced that it is planning to utilise robots to improve the efficiency of TBMs. It involves using an onboard Krokodyl robot, which will automate several tasks.