The Anonymous Widower

London’s First Two HS2 Tunnelling Machines Ordered

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on Ian Visits.

The title gives a description of the story, but the article reveals a lot of details about the tunnels for High Speed Two.

  • There will be ten tunnel boring machines (TBMs) in total for High Speed Two.
  • The main tunnels are 42 % larger than those for Crossrail.
  • There will be three pairs of tunnels under London; West Ruislip and Greenford (5 miles), Greenford and Old Oak Common (3.4 miles) and Old Oak Common and Euston (4.5 miles).
  • It looks like these first two machines will bore the two outer tunnels and that two extra TBMs will be ordered for Greenford and Old Oak Common.

There are also two excellent infographics.

  • The first shows the route of the tunnels.
  • The second shows the three pairs of tunnels and the directions, they will be bored.
  • The third also  discloses that the tunnels will be up to fifty metres deep.

There will also be a vent shaft at Greenford in Green Park Way, when the tunnel opens.

This Google Map shows the area.


  1. The A 4127 runs North-South across the map.
  2. The railways running across the map are Acton and Northolt Line and the Central Line, which serves Greenford station.
  3. The Greenford Branch Line goes South from a triangular junction.

The green site squeezed in between the industrial buildings and just to the North of the railways could be the site for the vent shaft.

This second map is a clip of High Speed Two’s map of the area.

The black line is the route of the High Speed Two tunnel.

  • It is to the North of the Central Line.
  • It looks to be close to the vacant site.

When High Speed One was built through Hackney, they bored the tunnels under the North London Line, so High Speed Two only seem to be repeating, what worked successfully.

These pictures show some of the ventilation shafts for High Speed One in East London.

Crossrail’s vent shafts are smaller in number and less obtrusive. There is one disguised in this building; Moor House.

I would hope that High Speed Two could improve further and create a useful building on top, that adds value to the area and doesn’t follow the utilitarian constructions of High Speed One.

Boring the Tunnels

According to the infographics, the three tunnels will be built in the following directions.

  • West Ruislip and Green Park Way – Towards Green Park Way
  • Green Park Way and Old Oak Common – Towards Green Park Way
  • Old Oak Way and Euston – Towards Euston.

These High Speed Two tunnels will be the fourth set of large tunnels to be bored under London in recent years after High Speed One, Crossrail and the Thames Tideway Scheme and I suspect there will be those , who will have worked on all four, at every level.

  • I wouldn’t be surprised to see some innovative use of the TBMs, so that they are reused if possible.
  • As four TBMs start at Old Oak Common and four finish at Green Park Way, I wonder if the planners have sequenced the insertion and extraction of the TBMs to make best use of the very expensive cranes needed.
  • Two TBMs will be inserted at West Ruislip, where there is a public golf course that must give plenty of space.
  • Two TBMs will be extracted a short distance to the North of Euston station. Again, there appears to be space.

I suspect experience from previous projects and good project planning has contributed to the design.

The Work Has Started At Green Park Way 

These pictures show the Greenford site on the 12th of October 2020.

These pictures were taken from a Central Line train.

The Tunnel Portal Works At West Ruislip Station

These pictures show the West Ruislip site on the 12th of October 2020.


  1. This is where High Speed Two will emerge from the tunnels from Euston.
  2. The first three pictures were taken from the bridge over the railway and show the Chiltern Main Line, Chiltern’s turnback siding and the High Speed Two site.
  3. There is no sign of works around the car park and the L-shaped care home on the station side of the road, so I would assume, that they will be unaffected by the tunnel.

This Google Map shows West Ruislip station.


  1. The Central Line terminating in West Ruislip station.
  2. The Chiltern Main Line passing through the station.
  3. The scar of the construction of High Speed Two alongside the Chiltern Main Line.

If you follow the Chiltern Main Line on Google Maps for a couple of miles, you can see the route of High Speed Two.

This second map is a clip of High Speed Two’s map of the area.


  1. The black line is the High Speed Two tunnel, that surfaces, where it changes colour.
  2. The L-shaped care home is still on the map, so it does appear the tunnel goes underneath.

It looks to me, that the bridge and Chiltern Trains going towards London, will offer good views of the tunnel works.

In the late 1950s, British Rail were increasing the number of tracks through Hadley Wood station, from two to four, by digging two extra tunnels.

I can remember my father taking me to see the works from Waggon Road or Wagon Road, which had and still had a few years ago, different names at either end.



October 10, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | Leave a comment

Could We Bore A Double-Track Railway With A Tunnel Boring Machine?

There is one inevitability about construction projects.

As buildings get taller, foundations get deeper, structures get heavier, machines like cranes get bigger and more able to lift heavy loads.

I remember how in the 1970s, a project manager was eulogising about how the latest floating cranes that could lift 4,000 tonnes wee revolutionising the construction of oil platforms in the North Sea.

Crossrail may be a railway under London, where people think the tunnels are massive.

This page on the Crossrail web site describes the tunnels.

A network of new rail tunnels have been built by eight giant tunnel boring machines, to carry Crossrail’s trains eastbound and westbound. Each tunnel is 21 kilometres/13 miles long, 6.2 metres in diameter and up to 40 metres below ground.

But they are not the largest tunnels under London.

The Thames Tunnel, built by the Brunels, opened in 1843.

  • It is eleven metres wide.
  • It is six metres high.
  • It carries the double track railway of the East London Line, which runs Class 378 trains, which are very much a typical British loading gauge.

There is also the Thames Tideway Tunnel, which is being dug to be a 7.2 wide circular tunnel.

And then there’s Bertha!

This description is from Wikipedia.

Bertha was a 57.5-foot-diameter (17.5 m) tunnel boring machine built specifically for the Washington State Department of Transportation’s (WSDOT) Alaskan Way Viaduct replacement tunnel project in Seattle.[1] It was made by Hitachi Zosen Sakai Works in Osaka, Japan, and the machine’s assembly was completed in Seattle in June 2013. Tunnel boring began on July 30, 2013, with the machine originally scheduled to complete the tunnel in December 2015.

It looks like London’s tunnels should be considered small.

Cross section areas of various tunnels are.

  • Thames Tuideway Tunnel – 40.7 square metres.
  • Thames Tunnel – 66 square metres
  • Seattle Tunnel – 240 square metres.
  • 8 metre circular tunnel – 50.3 square metres
  • 10 metre circular tunnel – 78.6 square metres
  • 12 metre circular tunnel – 113 square metres

The Seattle Tunnel shows what is possible today.

I am led to the obvious conclusion.

It would be possible to build a tunnel to take a full-size double-track UK railway using a tunnel boring machine.

Whether you would want to is another matter, as two single tunnels may be more affordable and better operationally.

September 5, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | 4 Comments

Millicent And Ursula Prepare To Go Tunnelling

I went to the Tideway Open Day today to see Millicent and Ursula before they go tunnelling.

Other than the names on the sides, you will notice that Millicent has less teeth on the business end, than her friend.

This is because Millicent will be going West from the site near Battersea Power station and Ursula will be going East.

As the geology is more challenging to the East, Ursula has more teeth.

Some points to note!

  • Millicent was named after Dame Millicent Fawcett.
  • Ursula was named after Audrey ‘Ursula’ Smith.
  • Both machines will have a statue of Saint Barbara, who is the patron saint of miners and tunnellers.
  • These machines are larger than those of Crossrail.
  • A documentary is being made for television about the tunnel.

There’s more on Millicent and Ursula on the Tideway we site.


May 13, 2018 Posted by | World | , | Leave a comment

The Victoria Embankment Work-Site Of The Thames Tideway Tunnel

As I walked along the Thames, signs of works for the Thames Tideway Tunnel are appearing.

These pictures were taken at the Victoria Embankment Work-Site.

There is not much to see at present, but most of it is so the Tattersall Castle can be moved.

When the tunnel is finished, the site will look like this.


The main purpose of the site, is to connect the Regent Street combined sewer overflow to the main tunnel.

Anybody fancy a coffee, a drink or a meal in the sun by the Thames on top of the sewer outfall in 2021?

January 18, 2017 Posted by | World | , , , | Leave a comment

A Walk Along The River

It was very sunny so I walked along the Thames from Blackfriars station to the Tower.


  • The works for the Tideway Tunnel.
  • The impressive new Blackfriars Pier for the Thames Clippers.
  • Queenhithe.
  • You walk underneath the City’s waste transfer station at one point.

I couldn’t believe that the weather was that good for December.

At Queenhithe, you have to walk inland as the Thames Path is blocked by development, that was done a couple of decades ago.

I do hope that the new development at Queenhithe will include a bridge across the ancient dock to continue the path.

December 22, 2016 Posted by | World | , , | Leave a comment

Thames Tideway Tunnel Site – Blackfriars Bridge Foreshore

Index   Thames Tideway Tunnel   Sites   Blackfriars Bridge Foreshore

Blackfriars Bridge Foreshore is going to be a major site for the construction and operation of the Thames Tideway Tunnel.

This Google Earth image shows the area of the site.

Blackfriars Bridge Foreshore

Blackfriars Bridge Foreshore

Note the pier for the river boats and HMS President in the angle between Blackfriars Bridge and the Victoria Embankment. Compare this image with this visualisation clipped from the Thames Tideway Tunnel web site.

Blackfriars Bridge Foreshore

Blackfriars Bridge Foreshore

The pier for the river boats will obviously be moved downstream and I found the works for this a few days ago and wrote about it here.

The first thing anybody will notice here is the relocation of the pier, which Thames Water say won’t happen until the new one is ready. At the moment the current pier is looking a bit tired, as these pictures show.

The text system for the Next Boat works.

May 14, 2015 Posted by | World | , , , | 1 Comment

Thames Tideway Tunnel Site – Albert Embankment Foreshore

Index   Thames Tideway Tunnel   Sites   Albert Embankment Foreshore

The Albert Embankment Foreshore site must have given the Secret Intelligence Service kittens, as it is going to be located across the front of their famous building. I also went to a lecture at University College London, which said that in the river at this point, there are prehistoric structures.

Thames Water say this on the Thames Tideway Tunnel web site.

Work will comprise construction of a new area of reclaimed land in the foreshore, in front of Camelford House for a shaft approximately 48 metres deep with an internal diameter of approximately 16 metres. Connection to the existing sewers will be made within a second new area of reclaimed land underneath Vauxhall Bridge and in front of the Vauxhall Cross building. These two areas will be connected under the foreshore. The shaft is required to transfer sewage flows from the combined sewer overflows to the main tunnel.

Once construction is complete there will be new public space extending into the foreshore providing a viewing platform to Central London, benches and intertidal terraces. The Thames Path will be widened to allow pedestrians to be diverted in front of (rather than underneath) Camelford House.

It is certainly a large set of works in the area, which they also say will link the Clapham Storm Relief and Brixton Storm Relief sewers to the new Thames Tideway Tunnel. This is a visualisation of how the completed site will look

Albert Embankment Foreshore

Albert Embankment Foreshore

Joseph Bazalgette would be pleased at the expansion of his Albert Embankment. These are a few pictures I took around Vauxhall Bridge.

There is certainly scope to improve the river in this area.

May 14, 2015 Posted by | World | , , , , | 1 Comment

Thames Tideway Tunnel Site – Victoria Embankment Foreshore

Index   Thames Tideway Tunnel   Sites   Victoria Embankment Foreshore

The Victoria Embankment Foreshore is a site just to the west of Hungerford Railway Bridge on the North Bank of the Thames. The Thames Tideway Tunnel web site says this about the site.

The Victoria Embankment Foreshore site is on the northern bank of the River Thames. It comprises a section of the foreshore and a section of pavement and roadway on Victoria Embankment (A3211).

This is a Google Earth image of the site.

Victoria Embankment Foreshore

Victoria Embankment Foreshore

Note the two ships; the larger Tattersall Castle and the smaller Hispaniola. Moving the Tattersall Castle to a new mooring is going to be one of the first tasks on site.

This image from the Thames Tunnel web site, shows what the completed installation will look like.

Victoria Embankment Foreshore

Victoria Embankment Foreshore

It might look a bit like a Victorian memorial to an important Admiral, but it certainly could be made into an excellent garden with a unique water feature. I took these pictures as I walked over the Jubilee Footbridge on the Hungerford Bridge and then walked along the Embankment.

One of the pictures is of Whitehall Gardens. I’ve included it, as it looks like the finished feature over the works might be modelled on the Victorian gardens.

My only worry with getting the design of this site right, is that they have talked to those designing the Cycle Superhighway through the area.

This is probably one of those sites, where there are few residents to annoy, proving that the traffic isn’t disrupted too much. On the other hand, whilst the site is being worked, it would appear that the footbridge might make a good grandstand.



May 13, 2015 Posted by | World | , , , | 1 Comment

Thames Tideway Tunnel Site – King Edward Memorial Park Foreshore

Index   Thames Tideway Tunnel   Sites   King Edward Memorial Park Foreshore


King Edward Memorial Park Foreshore is a site on the river at Wapping just to the East of a prominent Rotherhithe Tunnel Ventilation Shaft and will be on the main Thames Tideway Tunnel. On the Thames Tideway Tunnel web site, this is said.

This site will be used to intercept the existing local combined sewer overflow, known as the North East Storm Relief Combined Sewer Overflow.

This is a Google Earth image of the area.

King Edward Memorial Park Foreshore

King Edward Memorial Park Foreshore

Note the circular shape of the tunnel ventilator, which is just back from the foreshore in the middle of the park.

This image shows a visualisation of what the finished site could look like.

King Edward Memorial Park Foreshore

King Edward Memorial Park Foreshore


I also took a few photographs, as I walked through

It is rather a quality urban park and given the location and the increase in size, when the works are complete, I suspect that any good managers could make more than a fist of this contract.


May 12, 2015 Posted by | World | , , , | 1 Comment

Thames Tideway Tunnel – Greenwich Interconnection Tunnel

Index   Thames Tideway Tunnel   Sites


The Greenwich Interconnection Tunnel is a branch tunnel that splits from the Main Thames Tideway Tunnel at Chambers Wharf and goes by way of Earl Pumping Station and Deptford Church Street to Greenwich Pumping Station, from where it will be bored. This map shows the route of the tunnel.


Greenwich Interconnection Tunnel

Greenwich Interconnection Tunnel

It would appear that the tunnel is being dug in a single go from Greenwich to the Thames, with most of the route deep under the Greenwich Rail Line.

This Google Earth image shows the rail line between Greenwich and Deptford station.

Deptford To Greenwich Station

Deptford To Greenwich Station

The works on Deptford Church Street are just to the north side of the rail line in part of the green space and those at the Greenwich Pumping Station are to the south of the junction, where the DLR branches south from the rail line.

The next site at Earl Pumping Station is just off the main map at the left.

On the page for the Greenwich Pumping Sration, Thames Water say this.

In our application for development consent this site is used to drive the Greenwich connection tunnel, a long connection tunnel which connects the combined sewer overflows (CSOs) at Greenwich Pumping Station, Deptford Church Street and Earl Pumping Station to the main tunnel at Chambers Wharf.

So it looks like Thames Water are sneaking the tunnel into Chambers Wharf.

I doubt they’ll be much disruption from the actual boring of the Greenwich Interconnection Tunnel, as it’ll all be dug from Greenwich from a site with water access. As the tunnel is being bored towards Chambers Wharf, it would seem likely that the large amount of tunnel spoil created will be loaded on barges at Greenwich and taken away for disposal, with little disruption to anybody. It would appear to be a smaller version of the system Crossrail used on the Limmo Peninsular in East London.

May 12, 2015 Posted by | World | , , , , | 3 Comments