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London Power Tunnels readies second tunnelling machine for launch

Construction of the latest phase of National Grid’s London Power Tunnels will reach a major milestone later this month with the launch of its second tunnel boring machine (TBM) following its delivery to site this week.

The TBM, named Christine after construction diversity and STEM champion Christine Townley who was executive director of the Construction Youth Trust, will be used by contracting joint venture Hochtief Murphy to drive the tunnel from Hurst to Crayford. The tunnel is part of 32.5km of new 3m diameter tunnels being driven below south London between Wimbledon and Crayford for the £1bn scheme to upgrade the area’s power network.

The project’s first TBM, named Edith, was delivered to site in New Cross in May this year.Christine Townley stands by the tunnel boring machine

The TBM has been Christine after construction diversity and STEM champion Christine Townley who was executive director of the Construction Youth Trust

Townley was the guest of honour at a ceremony earlier this week to name the project’s second TBM as it arrived on site.

The Herrenknecht earth pressure balance TBM weighs 140t. The machine will complete two drives – the first towards Eltham will be through Chalk, Thanet Sands and the Lambeth Group, while the drive to Crayford will be entirely within Chalk.

National Grid London Power Tunnels project director Gareth Burden said: “[The ceremony] marked another milestone for the London Power Tunnels project which is picking up momentum as we connect our sites across South London. It was a great privilege to host the inspiring Christine Townley and all our guests at the event and talk about our investment in the local community through our partnership with MyKindaFuture. The programme is part of our ambition to address the lack of social mobility across the UK and the resulting skills shortage in STEM orientated industries, which has been a core part of Christine’s work.

“This project is essential for securing London’s electricity supply well into the future, and this has meant adapting and working throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. I would like to thank all the staff at the site again for their efforts in ensuring that the project continued to go ahead despite a global pandemic.”

Speaking at the event, Townley added: “I am so honoured and flattered that the London Power Tunnels project has named its TBM after me in recognition of my commitment to skills and diversity in construction. My late father would be chuffed. I’ve been lucky to support some amazing organisations throughout my career and particularly revelled in leading the Construction Youth Trust, developing its programmes and helping it clean the windows between young people, their communities and construction.

“The Covid pandemic has not helped our young people – some lost their jobs and others just never got a start. It is projects like National Grid’s London Power Tunnels and their fantastic work with organisations like MyKindaFuture that have really helped in inspiring young people and their communities to understand what the world of construction and infrastructure can offer them in jobs and careers and give them hope.

“Bravo to all those involved who, during these tough times, have ensured that they continue to support the communities in which they are building critical infrastructure. I’m excited to see what the future holds for London Power Tunnels.”

Following delivery of the TBM to site, work is now underway to position it in a 35m depth and prepare it for launch in the next few weeks.

Hochtief Murphy started work on site in March last year and the project is expected to be completed in 2026.

Last year, National Grid’s project director for London Power Tunnels 2 Gareth Burden joined The Engineers Collective podcast to discuss the challenges of delivering the project during lockdown


Department of Civil Engineering