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Balfour Beatty VINCI celebrate milestone TBM breakthrough in Warwickshire

30 March 2023

  • 2,000 tonne tunnel boring machine ‘Dorothy’ completes second bore of Long Itchington Wood Tunnel in Warwickshire
  • Milestone breakthrough marks full completion of first twin bore tunnel on HS2
  • The Balfour Beatty VINCI tunnelling team celebrate the momentous event at the tunnel’s south portal

Balfour Beatty VINCI has celebrated the milestone breakthrough of tunnel boring machine ‘Dorothy’ as the giant cutterhead broke through the wall of the Long Itchington Wood Tunnel south portal in Warwickshire.

Launched in November last year, the 2,000 tonne TBM has completed its one-mile second bore, making it the first complete twin-bore tunnel on the HS2 project.

After completing the first bore of the tunnel in July 2022, the 125 metres long TBM was dismantled and returned to the north portal where it was reassembled ready to start its second journey.

Members of the Balfour Beatty VINCI tunnelling team were on site to witness the moment the huge cutterhead broke through the reception box headwall. This marks the culmination of a three-year operation, from site set-up and TBM assembly, the first TBM drive and breakthrough, and now completing the second breakthrough.

Huw Merriman, Rail Minister said: "This is yet another ground-breaking moment in the delivery of HS2 and the transformation of journeys and communities across Britain.

“With the help of Tunnel Boring Machine Dorothy, these tunnels are paving the way for HS2 trains while preserving ancient woodland on the land above. These tunnels help ensure that we deliver this transformative project while protecting the natural environment.”

David Speight, HS2 Ltd’s Delivery Director for Main Works Civils on Phase One said: “I’d like to congratulate the 400-strong Balfour Beatty VINCI tunnelling team for achieving this fantastic milestone on the HS2 project. This is a key moment in HS2’s operation in the Midlands, which is now reaching peak momentum with over 400 businesses in the region already winning work, and 9,000 jobs supported.

“We’re looking forward to celebrating more milestones as work gathers pace on key structures such as the Delta Junction viaducts, Birmingham Curzon Street station, Interchange station and Washwood Heath Depot, creating more opportunities for local businesses and people.”

Michael Dyke, Chief Executive Officer for Balfour Beatty HS2 Major Projects, added: “Successfully completing the first twin-bore tunnel on Britain’s new, highspeed railway is yet another demonstration of how works continue to progress at pace across the project. It’s a huge achievement, not only for Balfour Beatty VINCI, but for everyone connected with HS2.

“Watching Dorothy break through her second one-mile journey today was only possible thanks to months of hard work and dedication from our 400-strong project team, who deserve a special mention for safely delivering this incredible feat of engineering.”

Tunnel Surveyor Apprentice Jake Flood from Walsall, who joined Balfour Beatty VINCI's tunnelling team last year was on site to mark the launch of the TBM back in November, said: “I witnessed the launch of Dorothy just after I started my apprenticeship last year. It was an incredible moment, and I am thankful that I have had the opportunity to support the tunnelling team over the past four months.

“It’s very special to be invited to watch the breakthrough alongside my colleagues. Working on a project with such huge feats of engineering really is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I can’t think of a better way to start my career.”

The tunnelling team have been working around the clock in shifts for four months to operate the TBM, which has put 791 concrete rings in place, with each ring made from eight two-metre-wide segments that each weigh up to 8 tonnes.

The tunnel, which preserves the ancient woodland above, forms a key element in how HS2 is managing environmental impacts through the design of the railway, protecting Britain’s precious wildlife habitats. Long Itchington Wood is classified as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) with complex ecosystems that have taken hundreds of years to establish.

Excavation of the twin bore tunnel has produced around 500,000 tonnes of mudstone, which is being processed at an on-site slurry treatment plant. From there, it is separated out before being transported by a 254 metre conveyer to be used to build embankments along the route of the railway, removing the equivalent of around 30,000 HGVs from local roads, reducing impacts on the local community and cutting carbon.

Over the next few weeks, work will begin to dismantle the shield from the TBM, while the rest of the machine will be pulled back to the start of the tunnel and disassembled, ready for transportation to East Birmingham. There, the TBM will be fitted with a new shield so that it can begin a 3.5 mile tunnel bore in early 2024, between Water Orton in Warwickshire and Washwood Heath in Birmingham.

Image: Balfour Beatty VINCI team celebrate milestone TBM breakthrough in Warwickshire


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Notes to editors:

  • Balfour Beatty is a leading international infrastructure group with 25,000 employees driving the delivery of powerful new solutions, shaping thinking, creating skylines and inspiring a new generation of talent to be the change-makers of tomorrow.
  • We finance, develop, build, maintain and operate the increasingly complex and critical infrastructure that supports national economies and deliver projects at the heart of local communities.
  • Over the last 114 years we have created iconic buildings and infrastructure all over the world. Currently, we are working to deliver Hinkley Point C, the first UK nuclear power station in a generation; constructing the world-class arts and cultural facility, the Lyric Theatre, in Hong Kong; and designing, building, financing, operating and maintaining the Automated People Mover superstructure at the fifth busiest airport in the world, Los Angeles International Airport.