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Manufacturer selected for remaining Crossrail tunnel boring machines

By Peter MacLennan

Manufacturer selected for remaining Crossrail tunnel boring machines
  • Herrenknecht AG to build final two tunnel boring machines (TBMs)

  • Eight tunnel boring machines to be manufactured for Crossrail

  • First Crossrail TBMs to come off the production line at end of 2011

  • Crossrail tunnelling to commence in spring 2012 from Royal Oak, near Paddington

The remaining two tunnel boring machines (TBMs) required to construct Crossrail will be manufactured by Herrenknecht AG, Germany. The final two TBMs will dig Crossrail’s Thames Tunnel in south-east London.

Once complete, Crossrail will dramatically cut journey times for travellers in south east London. From Abbey Wood, Crossrail will reach Canary Wharf in 11 minutes, Liverpool Street in 17 minutes, Tottenham Court Road in 23 minutes and Heathrow in just 51 minutes.

To construct the 21km of twin-bored tunnel required for Crossrail, eight tunnel boring machines will be required and will undertake ten individual tunnel drives to construct the 6m diameter rail tunnels. The first two TBMs will launch from Royal Oak in spring 2012.

Earlier this year, Herrenknecht AG was selected by the major tunnelling contractors to build the first six tunnel boring machines for Crossrail.

Construction of the Thames Tunnel is being undertaken by a Joint Venture comprising Hochtief Construction AG and J Murphy & Sons Ltd who have selected Herrenknecht AG to construct the remaining two TBMs. There are no UK-based tunnel boring machine manufacturers.

Slurry TBMs will be used to construct the 2.6km twin bore Thames Tunnel due to the chalk ground conditions in this part of the capital. The remainder of the tunnels, between Royal Oak, Pudding Mill Lane and Victoria Dock Portal will be constructed using Earth Pressure Balance Machines which will pass through ground which is predominantly London clay, sand and gravels.

The Slurry TBMs will be launched from Plumstead Portal in late 2012 and will tunnel westwards towards North Woolwich. Construction of Plumstead Portal is now underway with work for North Woolwich Portal commencing in early 2012.

The first two Crossrail TBMs are currently being manufactured. Factory assembly of these TBMs begins in October and will complete during November. The tunnel boring machines will then be factory tested before being dis-assembled in readiness for shipping to London. The first TBM components will begin arriving in the UK at Tilbury Docks in December with the second TBM arriving later in January. The TBM components will be transported to Westbourne Park for re-assembly.

Herrenknecht AG will also deliver two TBMs to Limmo Peninsula for the eastern running tunnels in mid 2012, two machines to Stepney Green and two machines to Plumstead later in 2012. The TBMs required for Crossrail will be up to 120m in length and weigh around 850 tonnes.

Andy Mitchell, Crossrail Programme Director said: “Work to manufacture the components for the first two Crossrail tunnel boring machines TBMs will shortly complete allowing the assembly process to begin. The TBMs will be fully assembled and tested at the factory over the next couple of months before being dis-assembled and transported to the UK ahead of tunnelling commencing at Royal Oak in spring 2012. A total of eight TBMs will be constructed for Crossrail with the remaining TBMs delivered to London throughout 2012.”

As the TBMs advance forward, precast concrete segments will be built in rings behind the TBMs. Concrete segments for the western running tunnels between Royal Oak and Farringdon will be manufactured at Old Oak Common.

Work is now underway to construct the tunnel segment factory on railway land at Old Oak Common and on is track to be completed later this year.

When operational, the facility will contain 216 moulds for the 75,000 concrete segments needed to line Crossrail’s western running tunnels. Approximately 50 people will be employed on-site and it will churn out over 200 segments per day at peak. The factory is being built specifically for the production of Crossrail tunnel segments and once tunnelling is complete, it will be removed.

Crossrail is currently finalising arrangements with the tunnelling contractors regarding the location of the other concrete segment manufacturing sites.


For further information contact Crossrail Press Office on 0203 2299 552 or email[email protected]

Notes to Editors:

Herrenknecht AG is based in Schwanau, Germany. Schwanau is located close to the German / French border, about 100km south of Strasbourg.

In spring 2012, the first two tunnel boring machines will start on their journey from Royal Oak towards Farringdon. This will be followed later in 2012 by the launch of two further tunnel boring machines in Docklands that will head towards Farringdon under central London. The Thames Tunnel drives will commence at the end of 2012, followed by further shorter tunnel drives under the Royal Docks and east London.

The five tunnels to be constructed are:

  • Royal Oak to Farringdon west (Drive X) - length of drive approximately 6.1 km
  • Limmo Peninsula in the Royal Docks to Farringdon east (Drive Y) - length of drive approximately 8.3 km
  • Pudding Mill Lane to Stepney Green (Drive Z) - length of drive approximately 2.7 km
  • Limmo Peninsula in the Royal Docks to Victoria Dock Portal (Drive G) - length of drive approximately 0.9 km
  • Plumstead to North Woolwich (Drive H) - length of drive approximately 2.6 km

All of this adds up to 42km of bored tunnels located below the busy streets of London.

Crossrail’s tunnel boring machines will be employed as follows:

  • Royal Oak to Farringdon (Drive X) – 2 x earth pressure balanced TBMs
  •  Limmo to Farringdon (Drive Y) – 2 x earth pressure balanced TBMs
  • Plumstead to North Woolwich (Drive H) – 2 x slurry TBMs
  • Pudding Mill Lane to Stepney Green (Drive Z) – 2 x earth pressure balance TBMs

Five tunnel portals will be constructed as part of Crossrail at Royal Oak, Pudding Mill Lane, North Woolwich, Victoria Dock and Plumstead.

The main Western and Eastern running tunnels will have tunnel portals at Royal Oak, Pudding Mill Lane and Victoria Dock. The tunnel boring machines (TBMs) will commence their eastbound journey under London from Royal Oak and westbound from the Royal Docks. 

To deliver Crossrail services to Abbey Wood, a tunnel will be constructed between North Woolwich and Plumstead – the Thames Tunnel. Tunnel portals will be constructed at either end in advance of the main tunnelling works.

Tunnel construction schedule:

Location of Tunnel Drive

TBM Launch

Tunnel Drive Complete

Royal Oak to Farringdon (Drive X)

Second Quarter 2012

Third Quarter 2013

Limmo Peninsula to Farringdon (Drive Y)

Third Quarter 2012

Third Quarter 2014

Stepney Green to Pudding Mill Lane (Drive Z)

Fourth Quarter 2013

Third Quarter 2014

Limmo Peninsula to Victoria Dock Portal (Drive G)

Second Quarter 2014

Third Quarter 2014

Plumstead to North Woolwich (Drive H)

Fourth Quarter 2012

Second Quarter 2014

About Crossrail

Crossrail will run 118 km from Maidenhead and Heathrow in the west, through new twin-bore 21 km tunnels under central London to Shenfield and Abbey Wood in the east. It will bring an additional 1.5 million people within 45 minutes commuting distance of London's key business districts.

When Crossrail opens it will increase London's rail-based transport network capacity by 10%, supporting regeneration across the capital, helping to secure London's position as a world leading financial centre, and cutting journey times across the city.

Crossrail is being delivered by Crossrail Limited (CRL). CRL is a wholly owned subsidiary of Transport for London. Crossrail is jointly sponsored by the Department for Transport and Transport for London.