Press Release

Balfour Beatty’s Thames Tideway Tunnel joint venture breaks through as TBM Rachel completes 7km journey from Fulham to Acton

28 September 2020


Balfour Beatty’s Thames Tideway Tunnel joint venture with BAM Nuttall and Morgan Sindall, today announces that a giant tunnel boring machine (TBM) building part of London’s new super sewer has completed its journey, marking another crucial step towards 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.

Image: TBM Rachel breaking ground around 11am on Thursday



Media enquiries to:

Vivienne Dunn
Balfour Beatty
+44 (0)203 810 2345 | follow us @balfourbeatty

All non-media related enquiries should be directed to +44 (0)20 7216 6800 or

Notes to editors:

  • Balfour Beatty (com) is a leading international infrastructure group. With 26,000 employees, we provide innovative and efficient infrastructure that underpins our daily lives, supports communities and enables economic growth. We finance, develop, build and maintain complex infrastructure such as transportation, power and utility systems, social and commercial buildings.
  • Our main geographies are the UK, US and Hong Kong. Over the last 110 years we have created iconic buildings and infrastructure all over the world including the London Olympics’ Aquatic Centre, Hong Kong’s first Zero Carbon building, the National Museum of the Marine Corps in the US and the Channel Tunnel Rail Link.
  • Tideway is the company delivering the Thames Tideway Tunnel, a 25km sewer tunnel urgently required to tackle sewage pollution in the tidal River Thames. In total the project is expected to create 4,000 direct sustainable jobs. One in every 50 site jobs will be an apprenticeship. For more information visit
  • BAM Nuttall, Morgan Sindall and Balfour Beatty (BMB) is a three-way joint venture who are constructing the west section of the new 25 kilometres Thames Tideway Tunnel.
  • Formed in 2013, the joint venture brings together extensive experience of collaborative working, innovative technical solutions and key personnel with a wealth of tunnelling project experience.
  • The 4.3 mile by 6.5m internal diameter West tunnel will run from Acton Storm Tanks in Ealing to Carnwath Road Riverside in Fulham and will include seven separate work sites en route and the Frogmore long connection tunnel at Wandsworth.

Vivienne Dunn

Senior Media & PR Manager