HS2 Ltd has launched its first tunnel boring machine (TBM) in the Midlands on Phase One of the project to build a high-speed line between London and Birmingham.

The 2000-tonne 125m-long machine will dig a 1.6km tunnel under Long Itchington Wood, in Warwickshire, over the next five months. HS2 Ltd chief executive, Mr Mark Thurston, launched the TBM, which has required 170 engineers to construct and assemble it, on December 2.

“This is yet another vital landmark in our journey towards a better-connected Britain,” said Mr Andrew Stephenson, HS2 minister. “It also underlines how our £96bn Integrated Rail Plan (IRP) - the largest ever investment in our rail network - is instrumental in creating jobs and economic opportunities, and ensuring more people reap the benefits of better rail journeys.”

The tunnel will be the first completed on the new 225km line, with the machine set to break through its first bore at the south portal in spring 2022. The TBM will then be dismantled and taken  north to dig the second bore which is due to be completed in early 2023.

The TBM will remove 250,000m3 of mudstone and soil which will be transported to an on-site slurry treatment plant where the material is separated out before being reused on embankments and landscaping along the new line.

In total there will be 10 TBMs on the first phase of HS2 between London Euston and Birmingham Curzon Street creating 102.9km of tunnels.

The launch took place exactly two weeks after the IRP axed around half of the planned Eastern Leg of HS2.

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