Two more tunnel boring machines, Emily and Anne, have been lowered into the ground to dig tunnels under west London for the HS2 railway.

Front shield of TBM Emily lifted at Victoria Road Crossover box site (c) HS2

The two tunnel boring machines (TBMs) will dig two tunnels from just outside the Old Oak Common station heading west, ending their dig next to Greenford station, where they will join up with the tunnel that’s currently being dug eastwards from West Ruislip.

When the two tunnelling projects meet in the centre, they will jointly form the 8.4mile long Northolt tunnel, which will take trains to/from Old Oak Common under west London out towards the M25, and up to Birmingham.

With the western half of the tunnel already being dug, the eastern half is now underway with the two additional TBMs. As is traditional, the tunnelling machines have been given names, in this case, Emily and Anne, after local female icons from history.

Major components of the first machine due to launch have now been lifted into the 25 metre deep ancillary shaft at the HS2 site near Old Oak Common station to prepare for the launch.

The first TBM lowered into the shaft has been named after Emily Sophia Taylor who lived between 1872 and 1956. Emily was a midwife who provided services for women who could not afford maternity care. She helped establish the Perivale Maternity Hospital in 1937 before becoming Ealing’s first female mayor in 1938.

The second TBM’s namesake is Lady Anne Byron, an educational reformer and philanthropist who lived between 1792 and 1860. She established the Ealing Grove School in 1834 – England’s first co-operative school, which provided education for the working classes, in an era when it was mainly for the wealthy.

Speaking about the preparations for the next set of TBMs to be launched in London, Richard Crathern, Head of Delivery for HS2 Ltd said: “We are proud that the TBMs have been given names from women with a connection to the local area who made a difference to previous generations of young people. This next set of TBMs will be contributing to important infrastructure for generations to come as they build Britian’s new high speed railway.”

The machines are earth pressure balance TBMs, which are designed for soft ground conditions, specifically London clay.

The machines will begin the 3.4mile journey at the start of 2024, travelling under Ealing from the Victoria Road site towards Greenpark Way in Greenford, taking around one year to complete the journey. At Greenpark Way, the machines will be disassembled and removed via another 35 metre deep shaft.

Before the launch of the TBMs, a blessing ceremony conducted by a local priest will be held – a longstanding tunnelling tradition. A statue of St Barbara, the Patron Saint of tunnelling, will be blessed and placed at the entrance of the tunnel.


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  1. Roy Taylor says:

    I noticed that money is still being paid out on London’s railway.
    But HS2 has been canceled (nice not) north and south devices still appnring. No inntenson of finishing HS2.

  2. Nigel H says:

    Seeing the name Byron prompted some research. A short lived tempestuous marriage to THE poet disposed of the original rock star and his ‘Mad, bad and dangerous to know’ persona. Lady Anne seems to have been a more dour woman with worthier ambitions.
    This quote appears to flag up the real reason she gets the contemporary tunnelling accolade.
    ‘ Lady Byron was interested in social and political issues, including education, penal reform and anti-slavery (being one of the few women to attend the World Anti-Slavery Conference of 1840). How very topical

  3. Tim N says:

    Ridiculous virtue signalling to give these destructive machines names, an insult to the memory of these women.

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