HS2 today will announce the launch of ‘Florence’ – the first of 10 HS2 Tunnel Boring Machines (TBMs) that will dig 64 miles of tunnel on Phase One of the UK’s new high speed railway.
The enormous 2,000 tonne tunnel boring machine is set to start at HS2’s South Portal site next to the M25 in Buckinghamshire, at an event attended by HS2 Minister Andrew Stephenson and HS2 Ltd CEO Mark Thurston among others.
Named after nursing pioneer Florence Nightingale – a name suggested by local children due to her residence at nearby Claydon House in Bucks, and chosen in a public vote – the TBM will dig the first of a pair of 10 mile long tunnels under the Chiltern hills and help to safeguard the woodland and wildlife habitats above ground.
More than 16,000 jobs and over 500 apprenticeships are to be supported by the project, which is set to transform transport links between Britain’s major cities, free up space on the rail network for more freight and local services and support the UK’s transition to net zero carbon emissions.
HS2 Minister Andrew Stephenson said: “The launch of Florence – the first HS2 tunnelling machine – is a truly historic moment for the project and this country.
“HS2 is a job creator, a spark for economic growth and an opportunity to level up the country, right at the heart of our plans to build back better from Covid-19.”
Welcoming the news, HS2 Ltd Chief Executive Mark Thurston said: “The launch of our first tunnelling machine is a major moment of progress for the HS2 project as we work to deliver a high-speed railway that will offer low-carbon alternatives for long distance journeys across the UK.
“With more than 16,000 jobs already supported by the project and thousands of companies big and small benefiting from contracts, HS2 is providing a major boost to the economy in these difficult times. The start of tunnelling is a moment of genuine excitement for everyone involved, and I hope the entire country will get behind this truly transformative project.”
Each machine operates as a self-contained underground factory - digging the tunnel, lining it with concrete wall segments and grouting them into place at a speed of around 15 meters a day. Each tunnel will require 56,000 precision engineered, fibre-reinforced segments – which will all be made on site.
A crew of 17 people will operate each TBM, working in shifts to keep the machines running 24/7. They will be supported by over 100 people on the surface, managing the logistics and maintaining the smooth progress of the tunnelling operation.
Chalk excavated from the tunnels will be used for landscaping at the south portal site once construction is complete, creating wildlife-rich chalk grassland habitats across 127 hectares of the southern Chiltern hills.
We will be updating you on the progress and launches of these TBM's as HS2 continues its