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Names of our first six tunnel boring machines announced

By Tom Lawson

Names of our first six tunnel boring machines announced

The Mayor of London and the Secretary of State for Transport today revealed the giant 1,000 tonne tunnel boring machines that will carve Crossrail’s tunnels under the capital.  The machines are around 150 metres long, the equivalent to 14 London buses end to end and weigh around 1000 tonnes.

According to tunnelling tradition, a TBM cannot start work until it is given a name.  This tradition is carried out throughout the world as a sign of good luck for the project ahead.  Since our TBMs will be operating in pairs to deliver the east and westbound tunnels for each of the tunnel drives we decided to name them in pairs.

Throughout January we ran a competition inviting the public to suggest pairs of names for the first 6 TBMs that will be used to construct the new tunnels.  We received a fantastic response from across the UK with over 2,500 entries submitted.

A Crossrail panel drew up a shortlist of 10 pairs of names and these were published on our website, with the public invited to vote for their favourite pair of names throughout February.

The winning names

Ada and Phyllis

Following the public vote held in February 2012, Crossrail's first pair of TBMs have been named Ada and Phyllis.

The first tunnel boring machine is named after Phyllis Pearsall who created the London A-Z.  She walked 23,000 streets and a total of 3,000 miles to compile the map. The second tunnel boring machine will be named Ada after Ada Lovelace who was one of the earliest computer scientists. She worked with Charles Babbage on his "analytical engine", and is regarded as having written the first computer program. 

Phyllis will begin her journey to the Royal Oak Portal in west London from where, next week, they will start tunnelling 6.4 km (four miles) east to Farringdon via Bond Street and Tottenham Court Road. 

Victoria and Elizabeth

Later this year, Victoria and Elizabeth - the second pair of machines - will launch from Limmo in Docklands driving 8.3 km (5.2 miles) west towards Farringdon via Whitechapel and Liverpool Street.

At approximately 8.3 km in length, Limmo Peninsular to Farringdon (Drive Y) will be the longest of the 5 Crossrail tunnel drives. 

Mary and Sophia

In the winter, Mary and Sophia - the third pair of TBMs - be launched from Plumstead travelling and under the River Thames to North Woolwich.

The Thames Tunnel will be 2.6km long and about 15 m below the existing river bed. The tunnel will be the only point where the Crossrail route crosses the River Thames.

Tracking the progress of our tunnelling machines

As these giant machines go to work constructing the new tunnels beneath the busy streets of London you will be able to track their progress via dedicated pages for each pair of TBMs.

In due course you will also be able to track their progress via our Near you mapping tool.

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Visit the tunnelling section of our website for more information about the works to construct our new tunnels. 

About our TBM naming competition

Around 4,500 people voted and the three pairs of names that received the most votes were:

  • Ada and Phyllis (submitted by Emma Duncan, London):
    Ada Lovelace was one of the earliest computer scientists. She worked with Charles Babbage on his ‘analytical engine’, and is regarded as having written the first computer program. Phyllis Pearsall single-handedly created the London A-Z. A portrait painter, she got lost on the way to a party in 1935 and decided the maps were inadequate. She walked 23,000 streets, and a total of 3,000 miles to compile the map, delivering the first 250 copies in a wheelbarrow.
  • Victoria and Elizabeth (submitted by Bryan Evans, Burnham):
    Named after the two Queens, Victoria was monarch in the first age of great railway engineering projects and Elizabeth II is the monarch at the advent of this great age of railway engineering projects.
  • Mary and Sophia (submitted by Ray King, London):
    Mary was the wife of the famous railway engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel and Sophia was the wife of Marc Isambard Brunel who built the first tunnel under the Thames.