HS2 begins digging 5-mile tunnel under London for new high-speed rail

HS2 launches Sushila: Enormous boring machine named after local teacher is activated in west London as it begins digging five-mile tunnel under capital for new high-speed railway

  • HS2 launched TBM Sushila on Thursday to begin digging a five-mile tunnel under London for a new railway 
  • It is one of two TBMs which will dig a five-mile twin-bore tunnel to Greenford over the next 22 months 
  • Each TBM will be operated non-stop except for bank holidays by 15 people working in shifts

Contractors have launched the first of six machines that will dig the tunnels for London’s new High Speed 2 (HS2) railway.

The tunnel-boring machine (TBM) – dubbed Sushila after local teacher Sushila Hirani – was activated near West Ruislip railway station on Thursday.

It is one of two TBMs which will dig a five-mile twin-bore tunnel to Greenford over the next 22 months. 

The two 2,050 tonnes machines, will begin excavating the high speed railway tunnels over the next two years, to create five miles of the 8.4 mile Northolt Tunnel for HS2 trains.

Once they reach their destination they will be dismantled and lifted from the ground.

Another pair of machines will dig a tunnel from Old Oak Common to Greenford, and two more will connect Old Oak Common with HS2’s London terminus, Euston.

Each TBM will be operated non-stop except for bank holidays by 15 people working in shifts.

Contractors have launched the first of six machines that will dig the tunnels for London’s new High Speed 2 (HS2) railway. The tunnel-boring machine (TBM) – dubbed Sushila – was activated near West Ruislip railway station on Thursday

Sushila is one of two TBMs which will dig a five-mile twin-bore tunnel to Greenford over the next 22 months. Once they reach their destination they will be dismantled and lifted from the ground

The two 2,050 tonnes machines, will begin excavating the high speed railway tunnels over the next two years, to create five miles of the 8.4 mile Northolt Tunnel for HS2 trains 

Once they reach their destination they will be dismantled and lifted from the ground. Another pair of machines will dig a tunnel from Old Oak Common to Greenford, and two more will connect Old Oak Common with Euston

TBM Sushila, operated by civil engineering company Skanska Costain Strabag JV, is HS2’s first machine to commence tunneling to London.

An identical machine called Caroline, named after astronaut Caroline Herschel, will launch later this year. TBMs are traditionally given female names.

Caroline will follow the same route as Sushila to create a twin-bored tunnel towards central London, New Civil Engineer reported. 

HS2 Ltd chief executive Mark Thurston, who joined Ms Hirani in starting the TBM on Thursday, said he was ‘enjoying the moment’.

‘It’s a big day for us,’ he stated.

‘These moments come up not very often in your career.

‘We’ve set three of our (TMBs) going north but these are the first two heading towards London.

‘It’s an important step as we build the railway north and south from here.’

Mr Thurston said the project has had ‘momentum for 18-24 months’.

TBM Sushila, operated by civil engineering company Skanska Costain Strabag JV, is HS2’s first machine to commence tunneling to London

Contruction crews assemble in Ruslip on Thursday as the first of the TBMs begins operation on the HS2 railway

Workers watch as TBM Sushila begins its operation in Ruslip, England on Thursday

Each TBM involved in the project will be operated non-stop except for bank holidays by 15 people working in shifts

A view of the HS2 site in Ruslip, England on Thursday as the first TBM begins operation

He went on: ‘For the civil engineering part we’re almost hitting the peak.

‘Just the civil engineering bit alone has got more than 20,000 people working on it, and somewhere around 27,000-plus on the project overall.

‘It’s very much a national endeavour and has momentum on multiple fronts.’

Asked if he was concerned by political changes in the UK, Mr Thurston replied: ‘I would expect any government really, if you’re investing in growing our economy, (would) see transport as a way of connecting our major cities.’

He said HS2 will help decarbonise transport as ‘clearly train travel is much greener than flying or having cars and lorries on the road’.

He added: ‘When you look at some of the broader policy challenges that the country has got and this or any government have got, I think HS2 is a big part of some of the solutions to those.’

Builders will utilise 10 TBMs on the HS2 project as they create 102km of tunnel between London and the West Midlands

A team of approximately 40 people assembled the TBMs. Fifty-six companies are involved in getting the constructions site ready and launching the machines

Sections of tunnel are stacked at the HS2 site in Ruslip on Thursday

There are more than 20,000 people working on the civil engineering portion of the project alone and somewhere around 27,000-plus on the project overall

Project officials allege the ‘huge team effort has enabled some of the most advanced TBMs ever built to be launched’

James Richardson, managing director at Skanska Costain Strabag JV, echoed the sentiment, telling the news outlet: ‘Today we start one of the most complex parts of HS2, tunnelling from here at West Ruislip towards Euston beneath one of the busiest cities in the world. 

‘The huge team effort has enabled some of the most advanced TBMs ever built to be launched. 

‘Our team has brought together world class skills along with developing many new people to the industry working on this crucial national infrastructure project.’ 

In total, builders will utilise 10 TBMs on the HS2 project as they create 102km of tunnel between London and the West Midlands.

A team of approximately 40 people assembled the TBMs. Fifty-six companies are involved in getting the constructions site ready and launching the machines. 

Project officials claim the ‘HS2 will help decarbonise transport as clearly train travel is much greener than flying or having cars and lorries on the road’

Workers watch a screen as the first of the two Tunnel Boring Machines run by HS2 ltd begins operation on Thursday

A worker is seen at the Ruslip construction site on Thursday as the first of two Tunnel Boring Machines begins operation

Workers on Thursday started one of the most complex parts of HS2, tunnelling from West Ruislip towards Euston beneath one of the ‘busiest cities in the world’

Workers are pictured at the construction site in Ruslip, England on Thursday

Sections of the tunnel are being stacked as workers prepare for the launch of the Sushila TBM

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