HS2 has launched ‘Florence’, the first of 10 HS2 Tunnel Boring Machines (TBMs) that will dig 64 miles of tunnel between London and the West Midlands.
Named after nursing pioneer Florence Nightingale, the TBM will dig the first of a pair of 10-mile long tunnels under the Chiltern hills and help protect the woodland and wildlife habitats that lie above ground.
The launch of Florence marks phase one of the new high-speed railway.
A second machine, ‘Cecilia’, will launch next month and will excavate the second tunnel at the South Portal site.
The first two TBMs will be operated by high speed railway’s main works contractor, Align – a joint venture comprising Bouygues Travaux Publics, Sir Robert McAlpine, and VolkerFitzpatrick.
Designed specifically for the mix of chalk and flints under the Chilterns, the two identical TBMs will dig separate tunnels for north- and south-bound trains.
Each machine will dig the tunnel, line it with concrete wall segments, and then grout the segments into place at a speed of around 15 meters a day.
Each tunnel will require 56,000 precision-engineered, fibre-reinforced segments, all of which will be manufactured on site.
A crew of 17 people will operate each TBM, working in shifts to keep the machines running 24/7.
More than 16,000 jobs and over 500 apprenticeships are already being 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.
Image: HS2’s tunnel boring machine, Florence