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Herrenknecht TBMs Complete Journey Under London

Herrenknecht tunnel boring machine Victoria

With the breakthrough of the Herrenknecht tunnel boring machine Victoria on May 23, 2015 tunneling on Europe’s largest construction site has been completed. For a new rail link between west and east, in only three years a total of eight Herrenknecht machines drove 42 kilometers of tunnels through the heart of the City of London.

With the breakthrough of Herrenknecht TBM “Victoria” on May 23, 2015, eight Herrenknecht TBMs completed a unique mission at Europe’s largest infrastructure construction project. In just three years, construction crews from three U.K. and European consortia navigated the high-tech borers from the manufacturing plant in Schwanau, Germany, through the center of London – carving out 42 km of tunnels under one of the world’s busiest cities.

London is actually the cradle of modern tunneling. In London in 1825, the first successful crossing under a river began using mechanized tunneling construction. In order to master the soft sandy ground under the Thames, the architect Marc Brunel and his son Isambard Kingdom Brunel designed a special steel frame. In its protection workers dug the tunnel, while right behind them masons reinforced the walls with bricks. This was the birth of shield tunneling machines. The Thames tunnel took 18 years to complete – an extraordinary pioneering achievement at the time.

The principle of supporting the tunnel face in soft soils and expanding the tunnel in the protection of a shield has remained. Nowadays, however, TBMs with diameters of up to 19 m drill through the ground. With modern tunneling technology pioneer structures of quite a different dimension are created. Right at the forefront in this respect is the Crossrail project in London, a three-year tunneling marathon that has now successfully completed.

 

TBM Elizabeth, the sister machine of Victoria

On May 10, 2015, TBM Elizabeth, the sister machine of Victoria, achieved breakthrough. Together the two EPB Shields have driven the 8.3 kilometer long twin tube from Limmo Peninsula to Farringdon. On their way they went through the Canary Wharf station box, Stepney Green shaft and Whitechapel station.

With the breakthrough of “Victoria,” London again made tunneling history. The team of Victoria, Elizabeth, Phyllis, Ada, Jessica, Ellie, Sophia and Mary worked at tremendous speed in constructing the 42 km of tunnels.

At the official breakthrough celebrations on June 4, U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron said: “Crossrail is an incredible feat of engineering that will help to improve the lives of working people in London and beyond. The project is a vital part of our long-term plan to build a more resilient economy by helping businesses to grow, compete and create jobs right along the supply chain.”

Crossrail forms a major new east-west connection through the congested metropolis of 8 million inhabitants. Five twin-bore tunnels with a total length of 21 km and 10 new stations link existing railway networks to the east and west of London. The new railway will stretch from Reading and Heathrow in the west through central London to Shenfield and Abbey Wood in the east.

Crossrail

“Crossrail is an incredible feat of engineering that will help to improve the lives of working people in London and beyond. The project is a vital part of our long term plan to build a more resilient economy by helping businesses to grow, compete and create jobs right along the supply chain,” said U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron at the official breakthrough celebrations.

Project owner Crossrail Ltd (CRL) commissioned three joint ventures with the construction of the five tunnel sections: Bam/Ferrovial/Kier JV with the Western Tunnels, Dragados/SISK JV with the three sections of the Eastern Tunnels and Hochtief /Murphy JV with the Thames Tunnel.

All three joint ventures used Herrenknecht TBMs for tunnel boring. Herrenknect supplied six earth pressure balance shields (EPB) for the construction of the eastern and western tunnels through London clay, sand and gravel. Two Herrenknecht Mixshields excavated the Thames Tunnel at depths of up to 15 m below the river bed.

At depths of up to 40 m, the tunnel boring machines made their way under some of the most expensive real estate in the world past existing metro lines, sewerage, supply and disposal channels as well as building foundations. The machines, with a shield diameter of 7.08 m, are 147 m long, weigh up to 1,100 tonnes and have a drive power of up to 1,920 kW. For precision targeted control, all eight machines were equipped with navigation systems from Herrenknecht subsidiary VMT.

Operated by 20 men per shift – 12 men on the TBM, eight on the gantry and above ground – the machines drove 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They achieved advance rates of up to 72 m (45 segment rings) per day.

London's huge Crossrail infrastructure construction site

On London’s huge Crossrail infrastructure construction site three joint ventures built a total of five tunnel routes in three sections. They all put their faith in the reliability of the machine technology and service from Herrenknecht. The German world market leader in mechanized tunneling technology supplied all eight tunnel boring machines for the project.

Crossrail – Europe’s Largest Infrastructure Construction Site

Tunnel boring machine Victoria being lifted into the Limmo Peninsula launch shaft.

Tunnel boring machine Victoria being lifted into the Limmo Peninsula launch shaft. From here the tunnel boring machine from Herrenknecht bored its way from east to west through central London. Over a distance of 8.2 kilometers it drove beneath Soho, Hyde Park and some of the most expensive real estate in the world.

Crossrail will be a new 118-km metro railway from Reading and Heathrow in the west to Shenfield and Abbey Wood in the east via central London. The route connects 40 stations, 10 of which are new. The journey time from London Heathrow to the main financial center in the City of London (Liverpool Street) is shortened from 55 to 32 minutes. 200 million passengers per year are expected.

To deliver Crossrail project up to 10,000 workers were active on more than 40 jobsites. Construction started in 2009, the start-up is scheduled for the end of 2018. The total costs amount to approximately € 20.8 billion.

 

The tunnel boring machines S-719 and S-720

The tunnel boring machines S-719 and S-720, later known under the names of Elizabeth and Victoria, at the Herrenknecht plant in Schwanau, Baden-Wurttemberg/Germany. The two machines with a shield diameter of 7.08 meters weigh 1,100 tonnes, are 147 meters long and have a drive power of 1,920 kW.

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