THIS will be helping HS2 tunnel it way towards Warwickshire and the West Midlands.
Tunnel Boring Machines (TBMs) are set to be put to work on the controversial high-speed rail project linking London and Birmingham later this year.
Some 54 kilometres of the 190km track will cut through the heart of Warwickshire with a new station also set to be built at Solihull near Birmingham Airport.
The two TBMs, which will not be working in Warwickshire or neighbouring Solihull, are certainly big.
The are 170m in length – nearly five times the length of a football pitch.
Each one weighs roughly 2000 tonnes – the equivalent of 340 African bush elephants.
And the size of the cutterhead which will bore the tunnels is 10.26 metres, roughly the height of two giraffes standing on top of one another.
When they start work they will run non-stop for three-and-half-years years, only stopping for Christmas and Bank Holidays, until the tunnels are complete.
The tunnels will go as deep as 80m below ground in a bid say bosses to ensure communities and countryside above are not impacted.
The internal diameter of the tunnels in which the trains will pass through will be 9.1m, slightly larger than two London buses stacked on top of one another.
The spiralling cost of HS2, now more than £100billion, has been the focus of severe criticism. The exact cost of building the TBMs has not been revealed.
Mark Thurston, chief executive of HS2 Ltd, said: “The construction of HS2 is set to be an amazing opportunity to showcase global capability and innovation in the design and delivery of major infrastructure, and the Tunnel Boring Machines are one of the most fascinating aspects. Like mini cities, they will spend 24 hours a day, seven days a week boring under the Chilterns so that the homes and habitats above remain undisturbed.”
The machines are being built in Germany. After completion the first two machines will be disassembled before beginning their long journey to Britain. Once they have arrived on site, each TBM will be reassembled, ready for launch and to begin their life underground.
Together the TBMs will spend around three years excavating what will be the longest and deepest tunnels on the project, stretching from just inside the M25, to South Heath in Buckinghamshire.