In December 2021, work began on the construction of a tunnel in the Midlands section of the HS2 project in the UK.

The cranes constructed a 2,000 tonne tunnel boring machine (TBM)

A 2,000 tonne tunnel boring machine (TBM) began drilling in Long Itchington Wood in Warwickshire to create a mile long tunnel. The tunnelling team will now work in shifts constantly to operate the machine for five months.

Ainscough was appointed to assemble the TBM, which involved installing the cutter head along with the three support gantries, and then fitting a tunnel seal can on the portal face.

A variety of heavy lifts at a radius of up to 22 metres were needed to complete the assembly of the TBM cutter head. These included the 10.2 metre diameter cutter wheel at 150 tonnes, the tail skin at 107 tonnes, the main drive at 132 tonnes and the eight main body segments at 65 tonnes each.

Cornucopia of cranes

A variety of cranes were used including a CC2500 and LG1550, and assorted other cranes from Ainscough’s Coventry and Birmingham depots including the new Stage 5 engine 110 tonne and 60 tonne cranes, and 450 tonne, 500 tonne and 750 tonne cranes from Ainscough’s heavy cranes fleet.

The 10.2 metre diameter cutter wheel weighs 150 tonnes

Manufactured in Germany by Herrenknecht, the TBM is 10 metres wide. This will be the first HS2 tunnel to be completed on the project, with the machine set to break through its first bore at the south portal in Spring 2022.

It will then be disassembled and taken back to the north portal to dig the second bore, which is due to be completed in early 2023.

The tunnel aims to preserve the ancient woodland above, which is classified as a site of special scientific interest and has complex ecosystems that have taken hundreds of years to establish.

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