Transport secretary makes historic first journey through completed HS2 tunnel

HS2 CEO Mark Thurston and Mark Harper MP, secretary of state for transport.

Transport secretary Mark Harper has made an historic journey through the first completed HS2 tunnel. 

HS2 chief executive Mark Thurston was joined by the secretary of state for transport to travel 33 metres below ground for an end-to-end tour of the first bored tunnel at Long Itchington in Warwickshire

The transport secretary’s drive-through came 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 more than 2,700 businesses awarded contracts.

Rt Hon Mark Harper MP 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, 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 around the clock for seven months, placing 790 concrete rings to build the 10-metre diameter tunnel.

Since the summer breakthrough, a 300-strong site team from HS2’s construction partner Balfour Beatty VINCI (BBV) have pulled the TBM gantries back through the tunnel, for the TBM’s relaunch to start the second bore.

Mark Thurston, HS2 CEO, said: “It was a pleasure to welcome the transport secretary to site 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.”

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