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Northern Line extension unveils tunnelling machines

Category: General / 24 January 2017

Deputy Mayor for Transport, Val Shawcross, announced the names of the tunnel boring machines as chosen by local schools when she visited the Battersea site on 20 January 2017.

•·         Tunnel boring machines (TBMs) named Helen and Amy, after British astronaut Helen Sharman and British pilot Amy Johnson; both famous pioneering women

•·         Tunnelling to begin from Battersea in March as part of delivering the first major Tube extension since the Jubilee line in the late 1990s

•·         The two TBMs are undergoing final surface assembly and tests before being lowered below ground in February

The Mayor of London has announced that tunnelling for the Northern Line extension (NLE) will begin in March 2017. The news was confirmed as principal contractor Ferrovial Agroman Laing O'Rourke (FLO) welcomed Deputy Mayor for Transport, Val Shawcross, to unveil the two gigantic Tunnel Boring Machines (TBMs) at the NLE Battersea Power Station site on 20January 2017.

The two 650-tonne TBMs are 6m in diameter and each measure the length of a football pitch. They will create two 3.2km underground tunnels to extend the Charing Cross branch of the Northern line from Kennington to Battersea, via Nine Elms.

Following tunnelling tradition, TBMs are given women's names as this represents good luck for the works ahead. Val Shawcross announced the NLE names to be ‘Helen' and ‘Amy' in honour of the first British astronaut, Helen Sharman, and British aviation pioneer Amy Johnson, who was the first female pilot to fly solo from Britain to Australia. The names were decided by local school children as part of the project's community engagement activities.

Luis Rallo, Deputy Project Director of the Northern Line Extension, said:

‘At Ferrovial Agroman Laing O'Rourke (FLO) we are proud of delivering this flagship project for Londoners. Unveiling these TBMs is a momentous occasion, particularly with the naming in honour of two significant women who represent STEM in Britain. We are confident that this critical part of the job will be delivered safely, on time and to the standards that have already been set by the FLO team in other tunnelling and civil works within the Northern Line Extension. We are firmly focused on continuing to inspire young generations into the industry.'

Having the project ready to launch main tunnelling represents a major milestone for the NLE.

Mark Wild, Managing Director of London Underground, said: "This is a significant moment in the history of London Underground as we prepare to start tunnelling to create the first extension to our historic Tube network for nearly two decades. The Northern Line Extension will bring Battersea and surrounding areas to within 15 minutes of the West End and City. It will also help us to support jobs, homes and growth in this part of south London, help keep pace with the Capital's rapidly rising population, and is creating jobs through the supply chain across the UK."

Ravi Govindia, leader of Wandsworth Council, said: "This Tube extension is already transforming the fortunes of north Battersea and it's a great pleasure to see these two colossal machines are here and ready to start work. The Nine Elms regeneration programme is one of the greatest sources of new jobs and homes in the country and this would not be possible without the Tube link."

The machines will tunnel up to depths of up to 26 metres for six months, excavating more than 300,000 tonnes of earth. This will then be passed along conveyors before being loaded on to barges and taken to Goshems Farm in East Tilbury, Essex, where it will be used to create arable farmland. This will remove more than 40,000 lorry journeys from the Capital's roads, reducing congestion and significantly reducing the site's carbon footprint.

Notes to editor:

The Northern Line Extension will enable the regeneration of the Vauxhall, Nine Elms and Battersea areas, spurring economic growth by supporting around 25,000 new jobs and more than 20,000 new homes. Construction is also boosting the UK economy, supporting around 1,000 jobs, including around 50 apprenticeships. As well as two new tunnels, two new stations are being created: one at the heart of the Battersea Power Station redevelopment and another at Nine Elms to the east, serving new developments such as the US Embassy and the redevelopment of New Covent Garden Market, as well as existing communities.

The two TBMs were built by NFM Technologies in Le Creusot in central France. They were shipped to London in the latter part of 2016 and reassembled in Battersea. Each TBM has a rotating cutterhead at the front which is pressed against the tunnel face by hydraulic cylinders. A series of trailers behind house all the mechanical and electrical equipment and a conveyor belt removes the earth.

The machines will undertake two individual tunnel drives at depths of up to 26 metres to construct the 5.2 metre diameter east and westbound tunnels between Battersea Power Station and Kennington. Each machine is capable of tunnelling up to 30 metres per day with teams of around 50 people needed to operate them.  The work is expected to take around six months to complete. As they advance forward, nearly 20,000 pre-cast concrete segments will be built in rings behind them.

The Northern Line Extension will excavate around 680,000 tonnes of material in total, over the lifetime of the project, during the construction of stations and the 6.4kms of new tunnels. Ninety two per cent of the excavated material will be carried by river and is expected to be clean, uncontaminated and reusable.

Throughout the NLE project, a high priority has been placed on meaningful engagement with local communities, including local schools. Kennington Park Academy, Griffin Primary School and Henry Fawcett Primary School which are close to NLE sites were contacted to take part in activities to choose the names from a list provided through the TfL programme, Women in Transport.

Ferrovial Agroman Laing O'Rourke has run a number of activities where the children enjoyed learning about tunnelling, interactive sessions and drawing competition. Team FLO is preparing a separate stakeholder event on January 26 for the students to visit the Battersea site.

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