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Giant tunnelling machine lifted from site by marine crane


A giant tunnelling machine used to dig London’s super sewer needed an even larger crane to be removed from Tideway’s site in Bermondsey - its work in the capital now complete.

The Matador 3 crane arrived at Chambers Wharf close to Tower Bridge last weekend to remove Tunnel Boring Machine Ursula, which had been hoisted from the more than 60 metre-deep tunnel shaft to the surface in preparation.

Sailing up the Thames from Rotterdam, the 1800 tonne marine crane moored by the Bermondsey site for the operation which had to work within tidal and weather constraints. 

The lift was a huge success with the 700 tonne TBM easily within the crane’s capacity and Ursula was safely lifted onto a barge by midnight on Friday and then taken away over the weekend.  

Tideway Delivery Manager for the Eastern section, Jim Avant said: "This is another step towards a cleaner River Thames and is another huge milestone involving so many of our partners to ensure a successful and safe operation. The lifting and removal of Tunnel Boring Machine Ursula from site required months of detailed planning and collaboration across our teams as well as precise timing working within tidal conditions and in such a visible location on the river. With Ursula arriving and now departing by water, this is another example of our use of the River Thames as we deliver this major project for London.”


Ursula had completed 7.6km of tunnelling from Kirtling Street in Battersea, using 4,227 concrete segments to form the tunnel.

As part of its drive, the machine excavated over a million tonnes of spoil, all of which was removed from site using barges on the Thames – preventing more than 250,000 HGV trips.

Around 240 barges were also used to transport concrete segments to site used to form the tunnel rings.

In a nod to the tradition in the tunnelling world, Tideway has named all of its machines after empowering women from London’s history with Ursula named after the British cryobiologist Dr Audrey ‘Ursula’ Smith.

Just as she arrived in London on water, Ursula will now journey to her final destination via the Netherlands where parts may go on to be used in another tunnelling project.