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TBM Rachel breaks through after 7km journey from Fulham to Acton

TBM Rachel breaks through after 7km journey from Fulham to Acton

TBM Rachel breaking ground around 11am on Thursday

A giant tunnel boring machine (TBM) building part of London’s new super sewer has today completed its journey, marking another crucial step toward a cleaner, healthier River Thames.

TBM Rachel has now finished tunnelling the western 7km section of the main tunnel after breaking into the shaft at Tideway’s site in Acton.

Around 725,000 tonnes of spoil was excavated as part of the drive – equivalent to almost 60 times the weight of the UK’s tallest building, the Shard.

Neil Binns, Senior Project Manager, said: “Having broken through at Acton Storm Tanks, it’s easy to forget the time and effort that goes into making all this possible.

“From designing and manufacturing the TBM, to providing logistics support for its delivery by river, to the above-ground operation, as well as the skill of the tunnelling team – this is a fantastic achievement and a wonderful example of the teamwork required to clean up the River Thames.”

TBM Rachel first arrived in London in November 2017 – having travelled 750km by river from the port of Kehl in Germany.

After careful assembly, the 1,350-tonne machine was lowered 35 metres into the ground and began tunnelling in May 2019.

Working a total of nearly 1,100 shifts, around 200 staff have worked on the western section of the tunnel, with Tideway’s use of the river to remove spoil and bring in concrete segment keeping around 25,000 lorries off the road.

Shirley Rodrigues, Deputy Mayor for Environment and Energy said: “This is a welcome milestone in London’s Tideway project. With recent reports that just 14 per cent of England’s rivers meet good status for water quality, this brings us a major step closer to a cleaner River Thames, hugely reducing the chances of sewage overflowing into the river. It will modernise our ageing sewage system and dramatically improve the environment.”

TBM Rachel was named after Rachel Parsons, who was the founding president of the Women's Engineering Society and a former Fulham resident.

The western section of the project, between Fulham and Acton, is being jointly delivered by contractors Bam Nuttall, Morgan Sindall and Balfour Beatty.

TBM Rachel at Fulham last year