The UK’s largest Tunnel Boring Machine passes factory acceptance test and begins journey to the Silvertown Tunnel project

15 December 2021 13:02 - BAM PPP bv / BAM Nuttall Ltd

London, 15 December 2021 - The Riverlinx Construction Joint Venture (BAM Nuttall, Ferrovial Construction and SK ecoplant) delivering the design and build of the Silvertown Tunnel on behalf of Transport for London (TfL) has announced the factory acceptance test of the giant Tunnel Boring Machine (TBM) which will be delivering the new river crossing’s tunnelling works.

The TBM is the largest diameter TBM to be used in the UK, has been built by Herrenknecht and passed the factory acceptance test successfully on 2 December 2022.

The diameter of the TBM measures 11.91 m which is the equivalent of almost three double decker buses. Compared to the TBMs used on the Crossrail project (7.1 m), the Northern line extension (6.03 m) and Thames Tideway project (8.85 m), this machine dwarfs other similar plant to have been operated in the UK in recent years. It will also be larger in diameter than those working on the delivery of High Speed 2. The length of the TBM is approximately 82 metres, and it weighs 1,800 tonnes - 1,200 tonnes of that being the enormous shield which equals 95 times the weight of a double decker bus. The heaviest Crossrail TBM shield weighed in at 526 tonnes, Northern Line Extension at 310 tonnes and Tideway at 780 tonnes.

The Silvertown Tunnel TBM will set off from the Silvertown launch chamber, piling for which is now completed and is currently being excavated, and will then be rotated and relaunched from the Greenwich Peninsula, to excavate the second tunnel, completing a total drive of 2,244 m. The ability to turn the TBM around is an important feature of its bespoke design which also incorporates the need for it to navigate its way through the stiff clay layers and boulders in this part of London. When finished, it will have excavated nearly 600,000 tonnes of material to form the tunnel - which will be extracted by barges along the river to keep construction traffic to a minimum during the project.

Juan Jose Bregel, Project Director, Riverlinx CJV: ‘It gives me and the delivery team an enormous sense of pride to have reached this important milestone for the Silvertown Tunnel project. Not only seeing the works really taking shape in preparation for launch at the two main sites at Silvertown and Greenwich but feeling the excitement of what is still to come as the pieces of the TBM arrive to be reassembled and launched in the first quarter of 2022.’

Helen Wright, Head of the Silvertown Tunnel programme at TfL, said: ‘This a big moment for the Silvertown Tunnel project, which will reduce congestion and toxic air pollution at the Blackwall Tunnel and allow for more bus routes to cross the river at this location. Everyone working on the project looks forward to this impressive machine starting tunnelling in Spring 2022, so we can remain on course to have this vital new river crossing open in 2025.’

The Silvertown Tunnel will be a new 1.4 km twin-lane road tunnel under the River Thames, linking North Greenwich and Silvertown. Once open, the tolled crossing will also reduce congestion as associated pollution, as well as improve the reliability and resilience of the Blackwall Tunnel, where drivers face daily queues, with the tunnel closing for incidents more than 600 times a year on average.

Construction work is well underway and site operations have been established on both sides of the river in preparation for the arrival of the TBM. The first pieces have already begun to arrive on site, keeping to programme for launch in Spring 2022. Due to the extraordinary weight of the components, and the location of the sites, a combination of barge movements along the Thames, as well as lorry movements, are being deployed to transport the pieces. The strategy being used aims to minimise road use and optimise river transportation.

When completed in 2025, the Silvertown Tunnel will be the first new road crossing east of Tower Bridge since the Dartford Crossing was built over 30 years ago. The tunnel will have a dedicated lane for buses, coaches and heavy goods vehicles, meaning there will be a significant increase in the number of buses crossing the river and much greater opportunity to use public transport.  Buildings above the tunnel entrances, and plans to improve walking, cycling and the urban environment, are also part of the major regeneration of both sides of the river.

Over the lifetime of the project, more than 100 apprentices will be recruited who will benefit from the career push that studying and experience offers. Riverlinx is committed to advertising all apprenticeships and employment opportunities with the local boroughs first, giving residents in Newham, Tower Hamlets and Greenwich the first chance to apply for vacancies.

About BAM Nuttall

BAM Nuttall, along with BAM Construct UK and BAM PPP in the UK, is part of Royal BAM Group. BAM delivers exceptional engineering, design, construction, property management, and investment services. The Group turnover £7 billion annually, listed on Euronext, Amsterdam.  BAM Nuttall, employing approximately 3,000 people, has a worldwide reputation for collaborating with clients, creating sustainable environments that enhance people's lives. Our projects span the UK, and we’re involved in overseas partnerships including Africa, Australia and Antarctica. BAM people capitalise their knowledge, across multiple sectors including rail, road, marine, tunnelling, highways, energy and water utilities and ground engineering - using state-of-the-art resources and digital technologies to provide innovative solutions. www.bamnuttall.co.uk.

About Ferrovial

Ferrovial, a leading global infrastructure operator, is committed to developing sustainable solutions. It is a member of Spain's blue-chip IBEX 35 index and an industry leader in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index; it is part of FTSE4Good and the Carbon Disclosure Project, and all its operations are conducted in compliance with the principles of the UN Global Compact, which the company adopted in 2002. For more information visit www.ferrovial.com.

About SK ecoplant

Since its establishment in 1977, SK ecoplant has been pursuing sustainable growth and stability, along with its consistent efforts to achieve the happiness of humanity and a better world. and gained a good reputation for its excellent technologies and construction capability in the various industries, such as power plants, civil infrastructure, architecture, and housing.

SK ecoplant will solve current problems with eco-friendly ecosystem platform that connects the environment, people, and finance through technology and build our sustainable lives with creative solutions and leading technologies for a better tomorrow.

Media contact: Laura Brown, lfbrown@ferrovial.com.