This week HS2 has launched Cecilia, the second of two 2,000t tunnelling machines that will excavate the ten-mile-long tunnels beneath the Chiltern Hills.
The tunnel boring machine (TBM) was named after the pioneering astronomer and astrophysicist Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin by public vote.
It will operate alongside an identical machine – named Florence – which was launched just over a month ago. Each machine will excavate separate northbound and southbound tunnels, helping to safeguard the woodland and wildlife habitats above ground.
Despite starting second, Cecelia will run slightly faster, aided by geological data fed back from Florence. This means both machines are due to break through at around the same time.
In total there will be ten tunnel boring machines (TBMs) working to create 64 miles of tunnel between London and the West Midlands for the high-speed rail project.
The first two TBMs are operated by HS2’s main works contractor, Align – a joint venture formed of Bouygues Travaux Publics, Sir Robert McAlpine, and VolkerFitzpatrick – and launched from a site by the M25 to the north west of London.
Designed specifically for the mix of chalk and flints under the Chilterns, Florence and Cecelia are powered by zero carbon electricity and move at a speed of up to 15m a day.
Each machine operates as a self-contained underground factory – digging the tunnel, lining it with concrete wall segments and grouting them into place. Each tunnel will require 56,000 precision engineered, fibre-reinforced segments – which will all be made on site.
A crew of 17 people will operate each TBM, working in shifts to keep the machines running 24/7. They will be supported by over 100 people on the surface, managing the logistics and maintaining the smooth progress of the tunnelling operation.
Chalk excavated from the tunnels will be used for landscaping at the south portal site once construction is complete, creating wildlife-rich chalk grassland habitats across 127 hectares of the southern Chiltern Hills.
“We are delighted to be launching Cecilia this week, the second of our TBMs, to dig the Chiltern tunnels.
“Both TBMs are identical and include innovations to improve efficiency and the safety of the environment in which the crews will be working that have never before been introduced on any previous TBM, worldwide.”
Align is recruiting 1,200 personnel in total, including 100 apprentices, to work on the Central 1 Area of HS2 Phase One that it is delivering. It is targeting its recruitment and investment in upskilling local people who are currently unemployed, with a particular focus on women, the under 25s and those with disabilities.
HS2 has signed the Rail Supply Group’s Work Pipeline Visibility Charter and will share its rail systems' technical specifications publicly.
The ‘High Speed Rail (Crewe-Manchester) Bill’ – HS2 Phase 2b Western Leg – will be introduced in parliament today (24 January 2022).
HS2 has chosen TK Elevator to manufacture and install approximately 160 lifts and 130 escalators at its four main stations.
HS2 archaeologists have excavated a vast roman settlement in Northamptonshire - one of over 100 sites HS2 has examined since 2018.
HS2 has published its Net Zero Carbon Plan, which sets out how it plans to make the project net zero carbon from 2035.
HS2 has revealed the first images of its 1.5 mile-long Greatworth tunnel - one of three ‘green tunnels’ to be built in Bucks and Notts.
Balfour Beatty VINCI (BBV) has launched a recruitment drive to support HS2 construction works planned for 2022 and beyond.
Jonn Elledge gets into the Christmas spirit and does some finger-pointing as to who is really to blame for the state of Britain's railways.
The first of 56 giant concrete piers for the Colne Valley Viaduct has been cast. Once complete, this will be the UK's longest rail bridge.
The contract to design, build and maintain the HS2 rolling stock fleet for Phase 1 London-Birmingham has gone to the Hitachi Rail-Alstom JV.
The first tunnel boring machine working on HS2 in the Midlands launched on 2 December, excavating a one-mile tunnel in Warwickshire.
As part of Alstom's acquisition of Bombardier Transportation, the companies agreed to divest a number of assets, including the V300 ZEFIRO.
Stanton Precast has been awarded the contract to deliver three 'green tunnels' for HS2 by the main works contractor EKFB.
Work on HS2’s Old Oak Common 850-metre-long station box has begun. The reinforced concrete structure will form the station's frame and base.
The Integrated Rail Plan published today, 18 November 2021, announces a huge slash in new railway lines being built in England.
HS2 has published a shortlist of bidders for the Phase 2a Design and Delivery Partner contract. The winner will be announced next summer.
In this month's column, Jonn Elledge muses on the future of HS2's eastern leg and the political tug of war taking place behind the scenes.
HS2 tunnel boring machine ‘Florence’ has passed the one mile mark, cutting through a mix of chalk and flint beneath the Chiltern hills.
HS2 has invited six bidders to tender for a major two-part enabling works contract for its recently approved Phase 2a section.
One year on from the start of phase one's construction, HS2 has announced that 20,000 people are now working on the high-speed rail project.
HS2 has confirmed the shortlist of bidders to build its control centre and rolling stock maintenance depot.
HS2 Ltd has published revised images of the Adelaide Road headhouse in Camden, after changes were made to the design.
Images of HS2’s Chesham Road rural headhouse, which will provide emergency access to the 10-mile-long Chiltern tunnel, has been unveiled.
The companies shortlisted to build HS2's Interchange Station in Solihull have been named by HS2 Ltd. The contract is to be awarded in 2022.
Leaders from across Yorkshire and the North East of England have contributed to a report demonstrating the importance of HS2's Eastern Leg.
SCS JV has signed the first of two contracts for the production of tunnel segments that will be used to construct HS2’s London tunnels.
In a UK first, on-site 3D reinforced concrete printing will be deployed by HS2's London tunnels contractor SCS JV.
Excavation of the vent shaft at Chalfont St Peter has begun in Buckinghamshire. It is the first of five on the HS2 Chiltern tunnels section.
HS2 designers are set to more than halve the amount of embedded carbon used in one of the high-speed rail project’s viaducts.
HS2 has begun its search for a team of specialist ground investigation contractors for the western leg of Phase 2b from Crewe to Manchester.
Permanent works on HS2's Old Oak Common station have got under way today with phase 1 seeing the construction of a 750,000m3 underground box.
HS2 has obtained approval for a scheme that will use excavated material to create new chalk grassland, woodland, wood pasture and wetland.
HS2 begins search for a construction partner to build Interchange Station. This will be at the centre of the new high speed rail network.
HS2 Ltd has revealed a new vacuum excavation technique for piling which could have massive benefits for the wider construction industry.
HS2 has deployed the first of 10 tunnel boring machines (TBMs) that will be used during phase one of the UK’s new high speed railway.
HS2 has confirmed that a team made up of Mace and Dragados will build Birmingham’s new city centre high speed railway station.
HS2 has presented its design of the Oxford Canal Viaduct that will measure 62.5m and span the canal and towpath between Banbury and Daventry.
HS2 Ltd has published its shortlist of companies it has asked to tender for the high-speed railway's high-voltage power supply systems.
HS2 has cast the first of 112,000 wall segments for the high-speed railway's 10-mile Chiltern tunnel outside of London.
Work has begun on what will be the UK's longest rail viaduct – the Colne Valley Viaduct to the northwest of London, measuring 3.4km.
HS2 will use retired wind turbine blades originally destined for the incinerator to make reinforced concrete that is carbon-friendly.
HS2 Ltd has started its search for a specialist contractor to deliver the high-speed railway's engineering management system (EMS).
Following the formal handover of the Heathrow Express depot to Network Rail, NR will begin its decommissioning work in preparation for HS2.
Collins Earthworks has completed the preparation of the HS2 site in Warwickshire in readiness for tunnelling to start this summer.
HS2 Ltd has started its search for a contractor to build the rolling stock depot and control centre at Washwood Heath in Birmingham.
HS2 Ltd has revealed the design of the Euston tunnel headhouse that will sit alongside the West Coast Main Line in London.
HS2 Phase 2a, connecting the high-speed line from London to Crewe via Birmingham, has received royal assent in parliament.
HS2 has revealed its final design for the headhouse and vent shaft at Chalfont St Giles which will provide ventilation to the Chiltern tunnel.
Comments in the Commissioner's report stating the government is exploring cutting down platform numbers at HS2 Euston have sparked concern.
The first of five headhouses that will provide ventilation and emergency access to the HS2 Chiltern tunnel has gained planning approval.
The designs for the HS2 viaducts at Water Orton in Warwickshire have been unveiled following a public consultation in spring 2020.
HS2 has started its search for a switches and crossings supplier for Phase 1 and Phase 2a of the high-speed line between London and Crewe.
The National Infrastructure Commission has published its Rail Needs Assessment report, causing widespread dismay over possible cuts to HS2.
HS2 Ltd has revealed the first images of the north portal for the Long Itchington Wood tunnel site southeast of Birmingham.
HS2 and the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) will work together on utility diversions in readiness of the metro eastside extension.
Network Rail has announced major works at Euston for the construction of the HS2 terminus and on the West Coast Main Line in 2021.
Midlands Voices report by the High Speed Rail Group says the eastern leg of HS2 up to Leeds is crucial for levelling up the country.
The tunnel boring machines that will excavate the HS2 Chiltern tunnel will be equipped with robotic arms to help with the concrete segments.
HS2 Ltd has published the updated designs for the Canterbury Works vent shaft headhouse, which will sit above the Euston tunnel in London.
HS2 Ltd has unveiled the design of two viaducts in Northamptonshire as a four-week consultation period for local residents gets underway.
The HS2 rail project has generated more than 400 apprenticeships to date, with a goal of creating 2,000 over the course of the project.
HS2 Ltd has signed a contract with contractor Skanka Costain STRAVAG JV for the first 2 tunnel boring machines to start on the HS2 project.
HS2 Ltd has launched a public consultation on proposed changes the Phase 2b of the high-speed rail project, including additional platforms.
HS2 Ltd has today (4 Sep 2020) announced the formal start of construction on the high-speed railway line, a major milestone for the project.
Solihull Council has awarded planning permission for the HS2 Interchange Station, the surrounding landscaping and the automated people mover.
HS2 Ltd has revealed the design for the vent shaft headhouse at Amersham, one of five such structures along the Chiltern tunnel.
HS2 Ltd has signed an agreement with UKRRIN to accelerate the development of innovative rail technologies and their time to market.
HS2 Ltd has launched part two of its Innovation Accelerator following a large number of applications in part one.
HS2 Ltd has revealed the first images and names of the two TBMs that will create the tunnel through the Chilterns: Florence and Cecilia.
HS2 Ltd has begun its search for the contractor to deliver the high-voltage power supply systems, traction and non-traction, for the line.
HS2's Old Oak Common site has been handed over to contractors Balfour Beatty VINCI SYSTRA, who won the contract to build the station in 2019.
HS2: the Chiltern Tunnel south portal site has now been fully levelled and the 17m headwall is now complete in preparation for the TBMs.
HS2 has revealed its final design for the first of four vent shaft headhouses for the Chiltern tunnel. This one is at Chalfont St Peter.
HS2 joint venture Mace Dragados has taken possession of the Euston Station construction site, preparing for the start of construction.
HS2 Ltd has started its search for overhead catenary system suppliers in preparation of awarding the £300m contract in 2022.
HS2 Ltd has launched a new hiring drive in anticipation of the start of major construction works on Phase 1 of the high-speed rail project.
HS2: The preparatory works at Euston station have reached a milestone with the demolition of the western ramp and canopy complete.
HS2 Ltd has revealed the construction companies that are shortlisted to tender for the Birmingham Curzon Street station build.
HS2 Ltd has launched its search for its operational telecoms supplier for Phase 1 and 2a of the high-speed line between London and Crewe.
HS2 has launched an Innovation Accelerator to help develop solutions in three areas: the environment, the circular economy, and productivity.
HS2 has revealed the first images of its south portal launch site from where two German-made TBMs will dig the Chiltern tunnels.
HS2 has received delivery of the first steel girders for the first bridges to be built on the project at the Birmingham Interchange site.
HS2 has adopted the CESAR ECV, an emissions identification scheme, to help keep emissions across its sites as low as possible.
2020 has its challenges to the rail sector with the coronavirus pandemic but there has been good news too: HS2 has its notice to proceed.
The DfT has extended the independent construction commissioner's brief to include HS2 Phase 2a. The role is held by Sir Mark Worthington.
Old Oak Common, one of the new stations being built for HS2, has received planning approval. The JV building it will begin in June 2020.
HS2 has formally launched search for signalling contractors. It will shortlist candidates in 2021 and issue contracts in 2022.
HS2 says it will pay its suppliers as soon as possible rather than within the contract terms and has asked Tier 1 contractors to do the same.
Curzon Street is the first of the HS2 stations to receive planning permission. It will form the Birmingham terminus of the high-speed line.
HS2 has officially launched its search for track systems suppliers for Phase 1 and 2a. There are 4 lots. Contracts will be awarded in 2022.
HS2 Interchange station near Solihull in the West Midlands is the first in the world to achieve the 'outstanding' classification by BREEAM.
The rail industry, associations, and unions have responded to the UK government's approval for HS2 Ltd to issue Notice to Proceed.
The UK government has given HS2 Ltd the approval to issue Notice to Proceed to the four main works civils contractors working on the project.
The UK PM gave the go-ahead for HS2 in parliament today. This decision has been welcomed by industry in general, including the rail sector.
The UK government will today give HS2 the go-ahead following a review into the high-speed rail project due to concerns about its cost.
HS2 has been heavily criticised by environmental organisations. Railway-News believes this is short-sighted and needs addressing.
Balfour Beatty VINCI SYSTRA joint venture wins construction management contract for HS2's Old Oak Common station worth 1 billion GBP.
The UK government has launched the Oakervee Review into HS2 to determine whether and how the high-speed line should proceed.
HS2 has received approval on their plans for Euston's 'sugar cube'. The structure will house a substation, electrical equipment and more.
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