The first of the tunnelling equipment for the HS2 railway has arrived in the UK, but won’t start work until the spring.
Two 170m-long (558ft) tunnel boring machines (TBMs) were built in Germany and delivered in more than 1,000 separate parts to a construction site in Hertfordshire, near the M25 London orbital motorway.
Weighing 2,000 tonnes, they will be assembled over the coming months before they start digging the high-speed railway’s Chiltern tunnels in spring next year.
The TBMs will work non-stop for about three-and-a-half years to complete the 10-mile (16km) tunnels, which are the longest on HS2.
The two tunnels will go as deep as 80m (262ft) below ground to reduce the impact of the high-speed trains on communities and countryside on the route, although that shows no sign of abating protesters, who have continued demonstrating near planned construction sites.
The internal diameter of the two tunnels will be 9.1m (30ft), providing enough space for emergency walkways on both sides of the track.
The material dug out will be converted into slurry by the TBMs, pumped back out of the tunnels, and used for landscaping at the site.