Boring the Chiltern Tunnels

Work on longest tunnels set to begin

HS2’s first two Tunnel Boring Machines (TBMs) arrived in the UK in December. The two 2,000-tonne machines – named Florence and Cecilia – are being meticulously reassembled, tested and commissioned before they start work on the high-speed rail project’s first tunnels this spring.

Built by Herrenknecht at its factory in south-west Germany, the two 170m-long machines were transported to the UK in more than 300 separate shipments over the course of two months, with the parts now delivered to the Align Chiltern tunnel site, to the west of London just inside the M25.

The names of the two TBMs were suggested by students at Meadow High School in Hillingdon and The Chalfonts Community College, Buckinghamshire, which are close to the tunnel launch site. They were inspired by Florence Nightingale, a major force in the history of modern medicine, and pioneering astronomer and astrophysicist Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin.


These first two TBMs will be operated by HS2’s main works contractor, Align, which has won the £1.6 billion C1 package of HS2 works. Align is a joint venture formed of three international infrastructure companies: Bouygues Travaux Publics, Sir Robert McAlpine, and VolkerFitzpatrick.

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