HS2 Milestone: First Tunneling Breakthrough

Tiny HS2 VL 33107 TBM Dorthy ready to launch at Long Inchington Wood Tunnel North Portal
The TBM Dorothy at the start of its journey.

The TBM Dorothy at the start of its journey.

In England, the high-speed rail project (HS2) is celebrating a significant milestone with their first tunneling breakthrough. The 1 mile long tunnel is located at Long Itchington Wood in Warwickshire, about 35 miles south of Birmingham.

The tunneling project was the first to be launched in the Midlands and was deemed necessary to protect the ancient woodland above. It took 170 engineers to construct the 2,000 ton, 125m long Tunnel Boring Machine (TBM) named Dorothy. A team of 400 people helped the TBM complete its first journey. Dorothy will now be dismantled so it can be reassembled for a second boring at this location, which is due to be completed in 2023.

It’s exciting to watch the progress of HS2, which is the largest infrastructure project under construction in Europe. The planned high-speed rail network will connect the 4 largest metro areas in the UK: London, Birmingham, Manchester, and Leeds. The project is being implemented using the integrated network approach, with each part of the project providing immediate benefits while also serving as building blocks towards an enhanced passenger rail network.

Phase one is under construction and will connect London to Birmingham with a high-speed trunk line. The second phase will continue the high-speed line from Birmingham, forming a Y shape that will connect Manchester and Leeds at either end.

The benefits from HS2 will be immense, as it’s expected to more than triple peak hour capacity for intercity train seats, free up space for increased frequencies on existing commuter lines and significantly reduce travel times between eight of the UK’s ten largest cities.

This is a transformational project for the UK and we should be watching closely to understand how the US can take lessons as we plan high-speed rail networks in the US.

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