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Manufacturer selected for remaining Crossrail tunnel boring machines

Tunnel Boring Machine - cutterhead

  • Herrenknecht AG to build final two tunnel boring machines (TBMs)

  • Eight tunnel boring machines to be manufactured for Crossrail

  • First Crossrail TBMs to come off the production line at end of 2011

  • Crossrail tunnelling to commence in spring 2012 from Royal Oak, near Paddington

The remaining two tunnel boring machines (TBMs) required to construct Crossrail will be manufactured by Herrenknecht AG, Germany. The final two TBMs will dig Crossrail’s Thames Tunnel in south-east London.

Once complete, Crossrail will dramatically cut journey times for travellers in south east London. From Abbey Wood, Crossrail will reach Canary Wharf in 11 minutes, Liverpool Street in 17 minutes, Tottenham Court Road in 23 minutes and Heathrow in just 51 minutes.

To construct the 21km of twin-bored tunnel required for Crossrail, eight tunnel boring machines will be required and will undertake ten individual tunnel drives to construct the 6m diameter rail tunnels. The first two TBMs will launch from Royal Oak in spring 2012.

Earlier this year, Herrenknecht AG was selected by the major tunnelling contractors to build the first six tunnel boring machines for Crossrail.

Construction of the Thames Tunnel is being undertaken by a Joint Venture comprising Hochtief Construction AG and J Murphy & Sons Ltd who have selected Herrenknecht AG to construct the remaining two TBMs. There are no UK-based tunnel boring machine manufacturers.

Slurry TBMs will be used to construct the 2.6km twin bore Thames Tunnel due to the chalk ground conditions in this part of the capital. The remainder of the tunnels, between Royal Oak, Pudding Mill Lane and Victoria Dock Portal will be constructed using Earth Pressure Balance Machines which will pass through ground which is predominantly London clay, sand and gravels.

The Slurry TBMs will be launched from Plumstead Portal in late 2012 and will tunnel westwards towards North Woolwich. Construction of Plumstead Portal is now underway with work for North Woolwich Portal commencing in early 2012.

The first two Crossrail TBMs are currently being manufactured. Factory assembly of these TBMs begins in October and will complete during November. The tunnel boring machines will then be factory tested before being dis-assembled in readiness for shipping to London. The first TBM components will begin arriving in the UK at Tilbury Docks in December with the second TBM arriving later in January. The TBM components will be transported to Westbourne Park for re-assembly.

Herrenknecht AG will also deliver two TBMs to Limmo Peninsula for the eastern running tunnels in mid 2012, two machines to Stepney Green and two machines to Plumstead later in 2012. The TBMs required for Crossrail will be up to 120m in length and weigh around 850 tonnes.

Andy Mitchell, Crossrail Programme Director said: “Work to manufacture the components for the first two Crossrail tunnel boring machines TBMs will shortly complete allowing the assembly process to begin. The TBMs will be fully assembled and tested at the factory over the next couple of months before being dis-assembled and transported to the UK ahead of tunnelling commencing at Royal Oak in spring 2012. A total of eight TBMs will be constructed for Crossrail with the remaining TBMs delivered to London throughout 2012.”

As the TBMs advance forward, precast concrete segments will be built in rings behind the TBMs. Concrete segments for the western running tunnels between Royal Oak and Farringdon will be manufactured at Old Oak Common.

Work is now underway to construct the tunnel segment factory on railway land at Old Oak Common and on is track to be completed later this year.

When operational, the facility will contain 216 moulds for the 75,000 concrete segments needed to line Crossrail’s western running tunnels. Approximately 50 people will be employed on-site and it will churn out over 200 segments per day at peak. The factory is being built specifically for the production of Crossrail tunnel segments and once tunnelling is complete, it will be removed.

Crossrail is currently finalising arrangements with the tunnelling contractors regarding the location of the other concrete segment manufacturing sites.

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