Britain's HS2 rail project makes first tunnel boring breakthrough

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Those working on Britain's HS2 high-speed rail project celebrated their first tunnelling breakthrough on Tuesday.

Engineers working on Europe's largest infrastructure project looked on as a 2,000-tonne tunnel boring machine (TBM) named 'Dorothy' completed its one-mile dig under Long Itchington Wood in Warwickshire. Dorothy is named after Dorothy Hodgkin, who became the first British woman to win the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1964.

The giant 125m-long TBM, which started its journey at the tunnel's North Portal in December 2021, broke through the wall of the reception box at the South Portal site on Friday 22 July.

An expert tunnelling team of more than 400 has been working around the clock in shifts for seven months to operate the TBM, which has put 790 concrete rings in place, with each ring made from eight two-metre-long segments.

The tunnel preserves the ancient woodland above, which is classified as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and has complex ecosystems that have taken hundreds of years to establish.

Hailing the achievement, HS2 Ltd's CEO Mark Thurston said: "This is a historic moment for the HS2 project, and I'd like to congratulate everyone involved in delivering it. The 400-strong team, including tunnelling engineers, TBM operators and the construction workers at both portal sites, have pulled out all the stops to achieve this fantastic milestone."

Over the next four months, the cutterhead and front section of the TBM will be dismantled and transferred back to the north portal, while the bulk of the machine will be brought back through the tunnel. It will be reassembled and ready to launch for the second bore of the tunnel.

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