HS2 reveals machines that will drill the Midlands route next year

HS2’s first two enormous Tunnel Boring Machines are now ready to be shipped to the UK, from Germany, to begin the 10-mile-long Chiltern tunnel excavation.

The first machine has been named after Florence Nightingale: the founder of modern nursing, while the second machine has been named after pioneering astronomer and astrophysicist, Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin. Both names were suggested by high school students. Around 4,500 people from across the UK then took part in the poll to select the final names.

These impressive tunnel boring machines will be instrumental in delivering the first stage of this transformative rail line between London and the West Midlands.The launch of our first tunnelling machines will be a defining moment in the history of HS2 – and our work to deliver a low carbon, high speed railway that will change the way we travel in the UK.

Mark Thurston , Chief Executive, HS2 Ltd

The enormous 2,000 tonne machines – which have been built by world-leading German tunnelling specialists Herrenknecht – will be shipped in pieces to the UK and arrive at Align's main site to the west of London just inside the M25 later this year.

‘Florence’ is set to be launched early next year to begin digging the 10-mile-long Chiltern tunnel. ‘Cecilia’ will launch around a month afterwards and dig the other half of the ‘twin bore’ tunnel.

Both 170m long machines are specifically designed for the mix of chalk and flint they will encounter under the Chilterns. Operating a ‘continuous boring’ technique, they are expected to take around 3 years to excavate the 9.1m metre diameter tunnels which will be lined with concrete as they go. The TBMs will mix the spoil with water to form a slurry which will be pumped back to the main site where it will be treated before being used for landscaping on-site, removing the need for additional HGVs on local roads. 

Florence and Cecilia incorporate the latest technology which will be essential to ensure an efficient and safe excavation of the twin-bore tunnel. This will be the first time that some of the innovations we are introducing will have been used on any TBM worldwide.

Daniel Altier, Align Project Director

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