Meet the Machine That's Going to Tunnel Under London

By Sam Gibbs on at

The £14.8bn Crossrail project is set to commence tunnelling in March next year in Royal Oak near Paddington, London. The plan is to bore a 13 mile underground tunnel connecting with overland sections to cover the 73 miles from Shenfield and Abby Wood to Heathrow and Maidenhead -- East to West London. To do that, TfL's got itself eight enormous tunnel boring machines that look like immense jet turbines.

Each of the eight TBMs measure a colossal 140m long and will bore a tunnel that's 6.2m in diameter under the streets of London. They're not quite as huge as the world's biggest borer, but they'll get the job done nicely. The first of these massive burrowing machines has just rolled off the production line and is currently undergoing testing before being dismantled again. It'll then be shipped from the manufacturers Herrenknecht AG in Germany, and put back together again in Westbourne Park. Each one will take two full months to be fully reassembled and ready for duty.

The borers will toil 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, except for "scheduled maintenance", which if it's anything like the scheduled maintenance on the Tube network, will likely overrun and cause massive delays. Eventually though, Crossrail will cut journey times across London passing through 37 stations, and add just ten per cent capacity to London's rail network. I say eventually, because Crossrail's not expected to open until 2018, and by that time I'm hoping to have my personal jetpack and hoverboard to get me about. Let's hope they don't accidentally tunnel into a bank or the tube network while they're down there -- that really would be a monumental balls up. [Crossrail via Wired UK]

Images courtesy of TfL

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