HS2 tunnel construction reaches half-way point

Construction of tunnels for HS2 between London and Birmingham has reached the half-way mark, according to HS2 Ltd.

A total of almost 47km has been bored, and the project is now reaching ‘peak construction’, with more than 31,000 people working on it at 350 worksites.

When the line is finished trains will travel through 88km of single bore tunnels, which will form 44km of the route, and 53 per cent of the tunnels have now been dug.

Tunnel Boring Machine ‘Dorothy’ completed the second drive of the 1500m Long Itchington Wood Tunnel in Warwickshire in March last year, which was the first tunnel to be completed, and at the moment four TBMs are digging the 13.5km Northolt Tunnel. ‘Sushila’ and ‘Caroline’ have excavated around 5km of their 8km route from West Ruislip to Greenford. Two more are building a 5.5km section of this tunnel in the opposite direction from Victoria Road in Ealing.

In the Midlands, ‘Mary Ann’ is two kilometres into the 5.5km drive of the first bore of the Bromford Tunnel between Water Orton in North Warwickshire and Washwood Heath in Birmingham. ‘Elizabeth’ has just started on the second bore.

It is less than a year since the Prime Minister axed HS2 north of the West Midlands to Crewe and Manchester, and also the surviving stub of the eastern leg to East Midlands Parkway, but he decided that Phase 1 between London and Birmingham was too far advanced to be abandoned.

Rail minister Huw Merriman said: ‘Reaching this impressive milestone on a project of HS2’s scale shows just how much momentum is behind construction of the line, which, once complete, will have a transformative impact on rail travel for generations to come.

‘It’s a significant achievement for the team helping deliver this railway and I’m delighted the project has now supported record numbers of new jobs, demonstrating the vital role it is playing in creating opportunities up and down the country.’

A question mark still hangs over the planned HS2 London terminus at Euston, but HS2 Ltd said ‘significant preparatory works have already been completed’ between Old Oak Common and Euston. Two TBMs are being manufactured and tested. 

A new storm blew up earlier this week when the government was reported to have admitted that its intention to fund the Euston section with private investment had been reconsidered, and that £1 billion could now come from public funds. HS2 Ltd said only that the government is ‘exploring different funding mechanisms’ to pay for the 7.2km tunnel to Euston.

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