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Help us name the first HS2 Tunnel Boring Machines

We need your help to name the first pair of tunnel boring machines to be used on the high-speed rail project.

HS2 is a state-of-the-art, high-speed line critical for the UK’s low-carbon transport future. It will provide much-needed rail capacity across the country, and is integral to rail projects in the North and Midlands – helping rebalance the UK economy.

Vote for your favourite name

Earlier this year, our contractor Align (a joint venture of Bouygues Travaux Publics, Sir Robert McAlpine and VolkerFitzpatrick) engaged with local schools in Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire and Hillingdon and asked students to put forward names of women who have made their mark on history through their achievements. Tradition dictates that in order to keep the tunnellers safe underground, tunnel boring machines (TBMs) are given a female name before they are launched. The women below were shortlisted and we now want you to vote for your favourite name for our machines.

Find out more about these inspirational women

Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin

Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin was an Astronomer and Astrophysicist from Buckinghamshire. She attended Cambridge University, then became Chair of Astronomy at Harvard. She was the first person to properly ‘read’ a temperature on stars. She also discovered that stars are made mainly from hydrogen and helium.

Nominated by: Chalfont Community College, Buckinghamshire because:

“Cecilia was born locally to the project being from Buckinghamshire. Cecilia is an inspiration and made an amazing, life-changing decision; to do something she actually wanted to do and became famous for her work.”

Florence Nightingale

Florence Nightingale was the founder of modern nursing who came to prominence while serving as a manager and trainer of nurses during the Crimean War, in which she organised care for the wounded.

Nominated by: The Meadow Special Needs School, Hillingdon because:

“She was a nurse who campaigned her whole life for funding for her charity which provided health care and hospitals for poor people before we had the NHS.”

Marie Curie

Marie Curie was a Polish and naturalized-French physicist and chemist who conducted pioneering research on radioactivity. She was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, the first person and the only woman to win the Nobel Prize twice, and the only person to win the Nobel Prize in two different scientific fields.

Nominated by: Maple Cross Primary School, Hertfordshire because:

“Marie was the first woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize in two different scientific fields, her work really helped medicine and helped at the time of War. All this when she found it hard to get educated due to her being a woman.”

The TBMs

Early in 2021, two 2000 tonne tunnelling machines measuring over 170 metres each will be launched at a site by the M25 to bore 10 miles underneath the Chilterns in Buckinghamshire.

A TBM is used to excavate tunnels through a variety of soil and rock in dense urban areas and to reduce environmental impacts in rural areas.

TBM being constructed in a factory.
The first picture of an HS2 TBM being manufactured.

Around 35 miles of the high-speed line route from London to Birmingham will be in tunnels and our first two TBMs are currently being assembled in a factory in Germany. They will be transported to the launch site later in the year.

  • The TBMs are 170m in length – nearly 1.5 times the length of a football pitch
  • Each one weighs roughly 2000 tonnes – the equivalent of 340 African bush elephants
  • When they start they will run non-stop for 3.5 years
  • The tunnels will go as deep as 90 metres (m) below the ground – ensuring communities and countryside above are not impacted by the railway
  • The size of the TBM cutterhead which will bore the tunnels is 10.26m, roughly the height of two giraffes standing on top of one another
  • The internal diameter of the tunnels in which the trains will pass through will be 9.1m, slightly larger than two London buses stacked on top of one another
  • The tunnels will be lined with concrete segments that will be 2m x 4m and weigh on average 8.5 tonnes each
  • 112,000 of these concrete segments will be required to complete both tunnels
Logos of Align and HS2