HS2 will enable growth in rail freight usage at UK ports

Today (Thursday 22nd October), HS2 Ltd has released a new video highlighting how the additional capacity HS2 will create on Britain’s existing rail network will benefit UK ports and distribution centres that use rail freight for the movement of goods.

Filmed at the Port of Tilbury in Essex, the video shows how additional network capacity for rail freight is essential for Britain’s low carbon future, as transporting goods by rail creates 76% less carbon dioxide emissions than equivalent road journey. 

HS2’s brand new track and fast inter-city passenger services frees space on the existing railway network for more freight by rail, taking lorries off the roads and reducing carbon emissions. By putting direct inter-city services on dedicated high-speed lines, HS2 will create more space on the existing railway for Britain’s growing rail freight sector.

The Port of Tilbury is the largest port on the River Thames spanning 1,100-acres and incorporating the London Container Terminal and a new port complex, Tilbury2, which together handle over 500,000 containers and trailers per year for import and export. Tilbury2 also has a dedicated construction material and aggregates terminal (CMAT), capable of handling in excess of five million tonnes of bulk product per annum. With the development of Tilbury2, including its two rail terminals capable of handling the longest freight trains, the port has scope for significant increases in both unitised and bulk cargo flows.

The Port currently welcomes daily rail services to major retail distribution centres and customers in the Midlands, the South West, Wales and Scotland. The trains then return with British products for distribution around London and the South East and exported by ship around the world.

From everyday goods to construction materials, more than £30 billion worth of products are distributed by rail in Britain every year. The Port of Tilbury has invested around £23 million in new rail-related infrastructure over the last couple of years to help expand their capacity to deliver more freight by rail.

With logistics companies striving for a green recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, and extra enquiries coming in as customers see rail as part of their supply chain decarbonisations plans, HS2’s capacity benefits will allow ports and distribution centres to offer more rail slots to their customers on the existing network – enabling our economy to grow in a safe and sustainable way. The Port of Tilbury anticipates the amount of materials moved by rail to increase by 900,000 tonnes per annum within the next five years, the equivalent of the weight of 429 London Eyes.

Speaking in a new video about the benefit of HS2 to UK ports, Carole Cran, CFO of Forth Ports said:

“HS2 will give us the headroom to grow our network of low carbon delivery routes. By building a new rail line, HS2 takes fast trains off the existing railway and places them on their own dedicated tracks. This allows local and freight trains to run at similar speeds on the existing lines, freeing up space across the network for many more passenger and freight services, so there are benefits for everyone, not just those who will travel on HS2.”

Ben Rule, Infrastructure Management Director, HS2 Ltd said:

“Building HS2 is the best way to increase capacity for rail freight on Britain’s existing rail network. Giving the UK’s ports the ability to transport more goods using rail will take lorries of the roads, reducing carbon emissions from transport, and will help us achieve a greener future for Britain.”

Jackie Doyle-Price, Member of Parliament for Thurrock, said:

“HS2 is the largest infrastructure project in Europe. It will bring a significant increase in rail capacity to the benefit of the whole UK. HS2 will free up capacity on existing lines to enable the transport of more rail freight including from major ports like Tilbury in my constituency. I fully endorse Tilbury’s push to grow its low carbon delivery model, with rail at its heart. Whether it’s food, medical supplies, or building materials, as we build back better, Tilbury will continue to play its critical role for the nation.”

HS2 Ltd has today also released a new explainer animation – ‘HS2: Upgrading freight Britain’ – which further demonstrates how, by providing additional capacity on the existing network, the new high-speed line will enable more freight to travel by rail, as well as allow an increase in local and regional passenger services.

HS2 will also take thousands of lorries off the roads every year as more freight can travel by rail. Each freight train removes up to 76 lorries from our roads, which currently amounts to 1.63 billion fewer kilometres a year by heavy goods vehicles, or more than seven million lorry journeys.

HS2 reveals viaduct designs for Edgcote and Lower Thorpe

HS2 today (Monday 19 October) revealed the latest designs for the Edgcote and Lower Thorpe Viaducts as the high speed rail project began a four week online engagement event for communities in Northamptonshire.

Set low into the landscape, the 515m long Edgcote Viaduct will carry the railway across the floodplain of the River Cherwell, south of Chipping Warden. At between six and eight meters high, the viaduct will be supported by 20 pairs of concrete piers and from a distance, will be largely hidden by existing hedgerows and woodland.

The viaduct passes close to the site of the medieval Battle of Edgcote. Fought on 26th July 1469, during the Wars of the Roses, the battle is thought to have taken place on the nearby Danesmoor.

Initial archaeological investigation along the route of the viaduct has not found any evidence of the battle and further investigation will be completed before construction begins.

Two major new wildlife sites will also be created where the viaduct crosses the floodplain, with new and enhanced fen, marshland and meadow alongside new woodland planting. The schemes – which total 7.6 ha – will create valuable new habitats for insects, bats, newts and other amphibians.

The 210m long Lower Thorpe Viaduct, two miles to the south, will also be set low into the landscape. Seven weathered steel spans will carry the railway across Banbury Lane just south of the village of Thorpe Mandeville.

The use of weathered steel, which naturally ages to a dark russet brown colour, is designed to help echo the tones of the surrounding countryside and reduce the visual impact of the structure.

Three more new wildlife sites – totalling 9.5 ha – will be created near Thorpe Mandeville, including a major project to enhance and restore a small lake with new wetland meadow and habitat for birds, butterflies and small mammals.

HS2 Project Client Director, Ambrose McGuire said:

“The start of today’s public engagement is an important step in the development of the Edgcote and Lower Thorpe viaducts. Set low into the landscape, the designs of both structures are heavily influenced by their location and our determination to reduce the impact of construction on the surrounding communities.

“That’s also why we are delivering five major new wildlife sites alongside the viaducts with significant areas of new woodland and opportunities for valuable new meadows and wetland habitats.”

The designs have been drawn up by HS2’s main works contractor EKFB – a team made up of Eiffage, Kier, Ferrovial and Bam Nuttall – working with design partners Arcadis and architects Moxon.

EKFB Technical Director, Janice McKenna said:

“It is a huge privilege to be responsible for the design and delivery of these two viaducts and to create a legacy for future generations. EKFB is using innovative, digital techniques to create designs that meet the needs of the future railway, while balancing the community, environmental and engineering requirements of designing lasting infrastructure. Our design solutions are created with people in mind and we are using construction methods that limit the impact on residents.”

The online public engagement event opened today and will last for four weeks.

Safe storage for Stephenson statue during Euston’s HS2 transformation

A Grade-II listed statue of railway pioneer Robert Stephenson has been removed and put into safe storage while Euston station undergoes its major HS2 redevelopment.

The 150-year-old bronze monument to Robert, the son of ‘father of the railways’ George Stephenson, came to Euston in 1871 and has stood in pride of place in its current location since 2008.

Now the listed sculpture of the 19th century civil engineer is being taken down and protected while the railway evolves for the 21st century.

But it’s not the first time the statue has taken a break from welcoming passengers to London – the monument has been relocated a number of times since the Victorian station was demolished in the 1960s and Euston rebuilt as we know it today.

Joe Hendry, station manager at Euston station, said: “We will miss having the statue at the station – so it’s absolutely vital that this tremendous part of railway history benefits from best-in-class protection. It’s been a great team effort to plan this work as part of the wider HS2 redevelopment. It means Robert Stephenson, who was involved with the development of the first Euston station, continues to be part of the station’s story”.

Among his many achievements, Robert Stephenson developed the London and Birmingham Railway which opened in 1838.

It was the first intercity railway into London and sparked the “railway mania” of the mid-nineteenth century.

Costain Skanska (CSJV) working on behalf of HS2 Ltd and Network Rail gained special planning permission from Camden Council to carry out the statue relocation.

CSJV and Network Rail also worked with the Railway Heritage Trust and Historic England to ensure all conservation guidelines were followed before, during and after the statue’s removal.

Laurence Whitbourn, Euston area director for HS2 Ltd, said: “As we build Britain’s new high-speed railway, we are continuing Robert Stephenson’s work and improving Britain’s rail network for years to come. We are grateful to Network Rail for being  the custodians of the statue for many years, and CSJV for managing its removal with such sensitivity, and I look forward to having the statue back at Euston in pride of place in the new HS2 station”.

Caroline Raynor, lead archaeologist at Costain-Skanska JV, said: “Robert Stephenson played a hugely significant part in the development of the railway in the 19th century. Costain-Skanska JV are proud to be part of the team who are protecting this Grade II Listed statue so that it can be reinstated to watch over future generations of rail travellers as they make their way through Euston. Amongst the team he has become something of a favourite and a heritage celebrity – our engineering mascot as part of a huge railway engineering project.”

Andy Savage, executive director of the Railway Heritage Trust, said: “The Railway Heritage Trust understands and supports the statue’s temporary removal from the site.  HS2 Ltd has consulted us several times, over the principle of its removal, the method of doing it, and how it will be stored. In our view they have been totally professional about this.  We look forward to the return of the statue, which we would hope can be reinstated in its original position between the two Euston Road Lodges. HS2’s works make this option possible for the first time in 60 years.”

As the redevelopment of Euston continues, steps are being taken to safeguard the station’s other heritage assets including the plaques commemorating Victoria Cross recipients.

HS2 awards contract for first two London tunnelling machines

Today (Friday 9 October) HS2 Ltd has signed the contract for the first two giant tunnelling machines for London’s HS2 tunnels, marking significant progress on the southern stretch of HS2.

The tunnel boring machines (TBMs) are being built by world leading manufacturer Herrenknecht and will be delivered to the site in the UK by the end of 2021. They are being designed and manufactured specifically for the London clay and chalk ground conditions they will bore through.

The London tunnels for HS2 are twin bored, and will be 13 miles each way, and with a combined total of 26 miles, our London tunnel’s will be the same length as Crossrail. This programme of tunnelling between central London and the M25 will be undertaken by HS2’s main works contractor, Skanska Costain STRABAG JV. Overall there will be 10 TBMs purchased to construct the 64miles of tunnelling along the HS2 route between the West Midlands and London.

The London tunnels will begin just outside of Euston station and will be below ground until they emerge in West London at Old Oak Common station. The route will continue underground from Old Oak Common to the outskirts of West London.

Malcolm Codling, Client Director at HS2 Ltd, said:

“HS2’s London tunnels will help ensure many homes and habitats in the capital remain undisturbed. This is a key part of our commitment to deliver Britain’s new high speed railway in the most environmentally-friendly way and minimising disruption to our neighbours.

“Building HS2 will showcase Britain’s world class capabilities in tunnelling. The procurement of these incredible machines is an exciting step towards the construction of the London tunnels, which will involve them working 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

These first two London TBMs will be launched from a portal at West Ruislip and will travel 5 miles east, creating the western section of the  Northolt Tunnel. Once they arrive at Green Park Way in Greenford the machines will be extracted from the ground and the site will then be used as a vent shaft. The 8.4 mile tunnel will be completed with a 3.4 mile tunnel drive from Old Oak Common using two further TBMs which are yet to be procured. A second tunnel between Euston and Old Oak Common will complete the remaining 4.5 miles of London tunnel between the two HS2 stations. 

Once the first new TBMs have been built, they will be transported by sea before being delivered to site at the end of 2021. Once assembled, they will begin the tunnel drive from mid 2022, until completion at the beginning of 2024.

James Richardson, Managing Director of Skanska Costain STRABAG joint venture (SCS JV) said:

As the construction partner responsible for the majority of tunnels on the HS2 project, our contract for the first two TBMs is a major milestone for us. This partnership with Herrenknecht has brought together leading expertise in both our organisations and together we are constructing some of the most advanced TBMs in the world to efficiently drive the tunnels under London.

Work is already well underway to prepare for the first tunnel launch in 2022. Throughout these and all our activities we are committed to involving local communities and stakeholders and supporting social development and employment through the 4,500 jobs that will be created.

David Salameh, Head of Project Management Traffic Tunneling at Herrenknecht said:

“We feel honored to be part of the epoch-making HS2 project and especially to work with the SCS Joint Venture. Our two Herrenknecht machines will be specially and innovatively designed for this project, excavating the Northolt Tunnels West.”

Some key facts about these giant machines:

Earlier this year, HS2 revealed images of two TBMs that have been made to construct the tunnels through the Chilterns. The names of the machines were suggested by local schoolchildren and subject to a public vote with Florence and Cecilia being the chosen names. The process for naming the first two London tunnelling machined will be revealed in due course.

PORR consortium wins HS2 modular track contract

HS2 today awarded a major contract to design and manufacture the modular track system for the UK’s new high speed railway, to a partnership which includes PORR UK Ltd and Aggregate Industries UK. The deal will see the slab track segments manufactured at a new factory near Shepton Mallet in Somerset helping to create up to 500 jobs over the life of the contract.

The deal – worth £260m – will see the PORR consortium manufacture all of the track (excluding tunnels and some specialist structures) between London and Crewe, where HS2 joins the existing west coast mainline.

Using a modular construction system known as Slab Track Austria, the concrete slab track will be manufactured offsite at a new purpose-built factory in Somerset before being transported to site. Once installed, the rails are then fitted onto the slab track.

This type of system – which is used on several high speed railways across the world – will reduce maintenance costs and improve performance in comparison to traditional ballasted track.

HS2 Ltd’s Procurement and Commercial Director, David Poole said:

“HS2 is designed to provide reliable high frequency, high capacity rail services for millions of people across the UK. Slab track will provide long-term value for money with lower maintenance costs and greater reliability and that’s why I’m pleased that today we are awarding that contract to the PORR consortium.

“This award – and the announcement of the new factory at Somerset – is another example of how HS2 is already supporting companies across the UK, creating jobs and helping the economy recover from the coronavirus pandemic.”

PORR is one of Austria’s leading engineering companies and one of the first companies in the world to develop a slab track system. PORR’s slab track system has been used to lay more than 780 kilometres of track worldwide – with its first stretch operating almost maintenance free since being laid in Langenlebern, Austria, in 1989.

Aggregate Industries UK is one of Britain’s leading providers of construction materials, employing more than 3,700 people at 300 sites across the UK. The new factory is planned to be built at an existing Aggregate Industries site in Somerset.

Simon Jukes, Managing Director of PORR UK Ltd said:

“The PORR Consortium is delighted to have the opportunity to contribute to this major contract and will bring a wealth of technical expertise and experience in high speed rail and slab track to the HS2 project. We are looking forward to working collaboratively with the HS2 team to deliver a world class sustainable rail infrastructure for the United Kingdom.”

A separate Track Systems contractor – due to be appointed in 2022 – will have overall responsibility for managing and coordinating the design and installation of the complex rail systems in each section of the route. This includes the installation of the slab track manufactured by the PORR consortium and the interface with signalling and overhead power supply.

Separate specialist contractors will also deliver the rails, switches and crossings, high voltage power supply, communications and mechanical and electrical systems.

HS2’s archaeological dig to be showcased in BBC documentary

  • HS2 – The Biggest Dig, a three part documentary series, to air on BBC Two from Tuesday 15 September
  • Series presented by anthropologist and anatomist, Dr Alice Roberts, and historian, Dr Yasmin Khan.
HS2's archaeological dig to be showcased in BBC documentary: Professor Alice Roberts, presenter of 'HS2 - The Biggest Dig' at St James's Gardens
Professor Alice Roberts, presenter of ‘HS2 – The Biggest Dig’ at St James’s Gardens

For three years, HS2 archaeologists have been giving TV documentary makers, Lion TV, exclusive access to archaeological sites being excavated as part of the HS2 project. Anthropologist and anatomist Professor Alice Roberts and historian Dr Yasmin Khan, present the three part series, HS2 – The biggest dig, airing on BBC Two, exploring the discoveries found in Britain’s largest ever archaeological programme.

Before construction work began, and any track is laid, over 1,000 archaeologists, across more than 60 sites in between London and the West Midlands, have been carefully uncovering the secrets of Britain’s past. The BBC series will focus on two major cemetery excavations – one adjacent to London’s Euston station and the other in Park Street, next to Birmingham Curzon Street station – the sites of two new HS2 terminals.

At St James’s Gardens in Euston, the disused Georgian burial ground was home to over 50,000 skeletons, which have been carefully exhumed in the work. Archaeologists were able to find out more about the lives and deaths of ordinary Londoners’ as well as uncover the remains of notable people including Captain Matthew Flinders, the explorer who first circumnavigated Australia and gave it its name.

Image of a skeleton excavated at St James’s Gardens

The findings from the London cemetery can be compared with the work which has taken place in Birmingham, where over 6,500 skeletons were uncovered from the 18th century burial ground. Work is taking place to examine the skeletons in more detail, alongside artefacts discovered within the burial ground, including figurines, coins, toys and necklaces. The documentary will explore the phenomenon of resurrectionists (body snatchers) in Georgian London and give insights into the lives of people living and working in Birmingham during a period of great expansion and change.    

Mike Court, HS2’s Lead Archaeologist said:

“Preparing to construct Britain’s new high speed railway has allowed us to explore and learn more about Britain, creating a legacy of knowledge that will enrich our understanding of the past. Between Birmingham and London our team of archaeologists have carefully excavated over 60 sites of archaeological significance and made fascinating discoveries which tell the stories of Britain through the ages.

“The documentary is one of the ways we are sharing our findings including the story of two cities, Birmingham and London, where we excavated burial grounds, learning about the people who lived, worked and died there at a time of industrial growth and city expansion.” 

BBC’s Commissioning Editor, Simon Young said:

“This partnership with HS2 has opened an extraordinary window into our recent past that is usually the realm of history books rather than archaeological excavations. The resulting series is a unique hybrid – marrying the physical evidence with written sources to create a vivid understanding of what life was really like in Georgian London and Industrial Revolution Birmingham. It’s fitting that such a hi-tech engineering project is also advancing our understanding of Britain’s history.”

Dr Yasmin Khan and Professor Alice Roberts at St James’s Gardens

The three part documentary series, HS2 – The Biggest Dig, airs on BBC Two weekly from Tuesday 15 September and will be available on BBC IPlayer.

HS2 rail freight deliveries set to take 1.5 million lorries off Britain’s roads

  • Tuesday sees very first rail freight delivery at HS2’s Washwood Heath site in Birmingham
  • 15,000 freight trains set to move 10 million tonnes of aggregate for HS2 over next ten years
  • Every freight delivery replaces 70 lorries – dramatically cutting carbon emissions of HS2’s construction
HS2 rail freight deliveries set to take 1.5 million lorries off Britain’s roads: HS2 Rail Freight delivery 25 August 2020
HS2 Rail Freight delivery 25 August 2020

Today (Tuesday 25 August) saw the first rail freight delivery of aggregate arrive at HS2’s Washwood Heath site in Birmingham, signalling the start of HS2’s major programme to take up to 1.5 million lorries off the roads to cut carbon emissions.

Over the next decade, up to 15,000 freight trains will haul 10 million tonnes of aggregate to HS2 construction sites. Each freight train replaces around 70 lorries, representing a massive reduction in carbon emissions and marking a significant investment for Britain’s rail freight sector.

The Washwood Heath Railhead site, managed by HS2’s main works civils joint venture Balfour Beatty VINCI, took the first delivery from HS2 preferred aggregates supplier Rail Stone Solutions (RSS) and their rail haulage partner GB Railfreight. Over the next four months, more than 150 trains will bring up to 235,000 tonnes of stone from quarries in the Peak District, equating to keeping an estimated 13,000 lorry movements off the road. 

Mike Lyons, HS2’s Civils Client Director said:

“HS2 is already playing a vital role in Britain’s green economic recovery, and today marks a significant milestone in our ambitions to reduce the project’s carbon footprint throughout construction.

“We’ve been working closely with Network Rail, our Main Works Civils Contractors, and Freight Operators for a number of years to make this possible, and to deliver on our commitment to move as much material as possible by rail rather than road and help benefit the environment.”

At Washwood Heath, 10 trains per week will each bring around 1,500 tonnes of aggregate supplied by RSS, which will be used to construct a large piling platform for the Bromford tunnel approaches, railway embankments, as well as haul roads around the site, which helps to limit the amount of vehicles on the public highway. Bromford Tunnel is the most northerly tunnel on Phase One, taking the railway in to Birmingham towards its destination at Curzon Street station.

A peak of around 17 trains per day will serve the Phase One programme beyond 2022. Other sites include HS2’s Rail Logistics Hub at Willesden which will welcome up to eight freight trains a day between 2020 and 2024. These will haul a total volume of around six million tonnes from the Euston approaches, including excavated material from tunnel boring machines – saving the equivalent of up to 300,000 lorry movements.

Almost one million tonnes of spoil arising from Euston station will also be removed by rail – the equivalent of up to 50,000 lorry movements. In addition, starting later this year approximately six million tonnes of aggregate will be delivered for works in the central area of the Phase One route, preventing up to 335,000 lorry movements from having to make the long journeys from the quarries supplying the material.

HS2 has been working with Network Rail for a number of years to ensure that capacity on the rail network is available for HS2’s contractors to deliver their requirements by rail rather than road.

Nick Coles, HS2 Programme Manager, Freight and National Passenger Operators at Network Rail said:

“Network Rail has been collaborating with HS2 Ltd and its supply chain partners on the HS2 Materials by Rail programme for the past 2 years – we’re delighted to see today’s first materials freight train to Washwood Heath and will continue to work closely with the programme in the years ahead to maximise the contribution the UK rail network and rail freight can make to the construction of HS2.”

Michael Dyke, Balfour Beatty VINCI Managing Director for HS2, said:

“The construction and infrastructure industry has a huge part to play in Britain’s carbon emission mitigation, which is why today marks such a significant moment for the HS2 programme. Balfour Beatty VINCI is deeply committed to creating more sustainable ways to travel and the modal shift from road to rail freight is a perfect example of how we can reduce our carbon footprint.”

Jon Fisher, Chief Executive of the GRS Group which operates Rail Stone Solutions said:

“The team at RSS is really proud to have achieved this first milestone in the delivery of materials to HS2, working in partnership with our rail haulage supplier GB Railfreight and our sister company Rail Freight Services (RFS) which handles the unloading.

“The time and effort we have invested planning the delivery of millions of tonnes of aggregates to HS2 is beginning to pay off and we hope this is the first of many achievements over the next decade. As a preferred supplier on several sections of HS2, we’re looking forward to long-term relationships with both BBV and EKBF to deliver bulk materials in the most efficient and cost-effective way possible for the project.”

GB Railfreight’s Managing Director John Smith said:

“HS2 is a hugely important project for the UK. Once it is completed it will play an important role in helping to move more passengers on the UK rail system and by releasing capacity for rail freight. The start of deliveries of aggregates from Hindlow Quarry to Washwood Heath is an important step forward in the construction of HS2. GB Railfreight are proud to be playing our part in making HS2 a reality.

“Railfreight is significantly better for the environment than moving aggregates by road and the partnership between our team at GBRf, RSS and the BBV JV will move the equivalent of more than 11,000 truck movements. The strong partnership has been key to the success of the project so far and will support the delivery of over 235,000 tonnes of aggregates this year.”

HS2 tunnelling machines set to leave factory with the names Florence and Cecilia topping public vote

  • HS2’s first two enormous Tunnel Boring Machines completed in Germany ready to be shipped to the UK and begin the 10-mile-long Chiltern tunnel excavation
  • First machine named after Florence Nightingale: the founder of modern nursing who spent many years living in Claydon, Buckinghamshire
  • Second machine named after pioneering astronomer and astrophysicist, Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin, who was born in Buckinghamshire

Watch the video here

HS2 has today (Tuesday 11th August) revealed the first images and publicly-chosen names of the first two completed giant Tunnel Boring Machines (TBMs) that will excavate the twin-bore Chiltern tunnel on the first phase of the UK’s new low carbon, high speed railway between London and the West Midlands.

The names – Florence and Cecilia – were suggested by students at Meadow High School in Hillingdon and The Chalfonts Community College, Buckinghamshire, inspired by female scientific and medical pioneers.

Around 4,500 people from across the UK took part in the poll to select the final names, with Florence taking 40% of the vote and Cecilia a close second with 32%. The schools that suggested the names are close to HS2’s South Portal site, from where the first tunnel boring machines will launch early next year.

HS2 Minister Andrew Stephenson said:

 “These impressive tunnel boring machines will be instrumental in delivering the first stage of this transformative rail line between London and the West Midlands, and it is fitting that they bear the names Florence and Cecilia, two iconic women from this area whose achievements remain famous today.

“HS2 will provide better, more reliable connections that truly level up our country, boosting economic growth and sharing opportunities. I want to thank all the students who played a role in this milestone moment, and who will benefit from this high-speed railway for years to come.”

Welcoming the announcement, HS2 Ltd Chief Executive Mark Thurston said: 

“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.  

“I’d like to thank all the schools that took part in the first stage of the competition, the pupils who suggested the three shortlisted names, and all those who voted online. It’s great to see local communities engaging with the project, and schoolchildren being inspired by the scientific and technological ambition of HS2.”


The first two TBMs will be operated by HS2’s main works contractor, Align JV – a joint venture formed of three international infrastructure companies: Bouygues Travaux Publics, Sir Robert McAlpine, and VolkerFitzpatrick.

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. 

Daniel Altier, Align Project Director said:

“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.

“With STEM subjects a top priority in many schools, we are delighted that local schools have had the opportunity to get involved by selecting the names and we hope schoolchildren across the UK will be keen to monitor the progress of our TBMs over the next 3 years.”

Frédéric Battistoni, Herrenknecht, Head of Project Management Traffic Tunnelling said:

“It is a real pleasure to work with HS2 and specifically the team from Align, to deliver two machines that are uniquely designed to meet the challenges of constructing the Chiltern tunnel.”