THE SECRETARY of state for transport Mark Harper and and HS2 Ltd Chief Executive Mark Thurston went 33 metres below ground for an end-to-end tour of the first completed tunnel on the HS2 project.
The Transport Secretary’s drive-through comes a week after Chancellor Jeremy Hunt visited HS2’s Interchange station site, in recognition of the progress the project is making, with almost 30,000 jobs now supported by HS2 and over 2,700 businesses awarded contracts.
Mr Harper said: “It was absolutely extraordinary to see first-hand the sheer scale and craftmanship of this monumental project which will positively transform the lives of hundreds of thousands of people across the North and Midlands.
“As well as boosting connections, regenerating communities and creating tens of thousands of jobs, tunnels such as this have been designed to ensure Britain’s biodiversity and countryside are preserved during construction and for many decades to come.”
A 2,000 tonne tunnel boring machine (TBM) dug the one-mile tunnel taking the HS2 rail line under Long Itchington Wood in Warwickshire, protecting the ancient woodland above.
The TBM – named ‘Dorothy’ after Dorothy Hodgkin who in 1964 became the first British woman to win the Nobel Prize in Chemistry – broke through the south portal tunnel wall in July this year.
The tunnelling team worked for 7 months, placing 790 concrete rings to build the 10 metre diameter tunnel.
Mark Thurston, HS2 Ltd’s CEO said: “It was a pleasure to welcome the Transport Secretary to site today as the first member of the UK Government to travel the entire length of the completed one-mile tunnel under Long Itchington Wood.
“This is another fantastic milestone for HS2, demonstrating the huge progress we’re making in the West Midlands, where nearly 7,000 people are working on the project.
“Travelling from end-to-end of our first completed tunnel just shows the unstoppable momentum on a project that is providing essential skilled jobs for people today, and in the future will provide zero-carbon public transport and help to level-up the Midlands and North.”