HS2 tunnelling machines complete first of 10 miles under the Chilterns

Meet Florence and Cecilia: The 2,000-ton 555ft-long HS2 tunnelling machines that will dig 50 feet a day for three years as they complete first of 10 miles under the Chilterns for £100bn high-speed rail line

HS2’s huge Tunnel Boring Machines (TBMs) have continued to rip through stunning English countryside as they plough yet more concrete into the earth.

The £100billion high-speed network’s latest phase tore two enormous holes for 10 miles under the Chilterns at the picturesque village of West Hyde, Rickmansworth, in Hertfordshire.

Aerial pictures showed the devastation caused by the 557ft TBMs – called Cecilia after astronomer Payne-Gaposchkin and Florence after nurse Nightingale – as acres of greenery were turned into a building site.

Furious campaigners argued HS2 – which will run between London and Birmingham – poses ‘a grave threat to the UK’s ancient woods, with 108 at risk of loss or damage’.

But the firm blasted back that only 0.29 square kilometres (0.11 square miles) of ancient woodland will be lost during the first phase.

Meanwhile the rail industry is bracing for a downsizing of a major section of HS2 due to the project’s ballooning price tag amid the economic impact of the pandemic. 

HS2's huge Tunnel Boring Machines (TBMs) have continued to rip through stunning English countryside as they plough yet more concrete into the earth

HS2’s huge Tunnel Boring Machines (TBMs) have continued to rip through stunning English countryside as they plough yet more concrete into the earth

Is there light at the end of the tunnel? The £100billion high-speed network's latest phase tore enormous holes for 10 miles under the much-loved Chilterns near the village of West Hyde in Hertfordshire

Is there light at the end of the tunnel? The £100billion high-speed network’s latest phase tore enormous holes for 10 miles under the much-loved Chilterns near the village of West Hyde in Hertfordshire

A member of the HS2 team pauses on a stretch of the tunnel as he walks towards the Tunnel Boring Machine (TBM) named Cecilia, after astronomer and astrophysicist Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin, yesterday

A member of the HS2 team pauses on a stretch of the tunnel as he walks towards the Tunnel Boring Machine (TBM) named Cecilia, after astronomer and astrophysicist Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin, yesterday

A dramatic photograph shows the tunnel leading up to the monster Tunnel Boring Machine being used to dig for HS2. The rail industry is bracing for a downsizing of a major section of HS2, together with the project's ballooning price tag - especially after the economic harm of the pandemic

A dramatic photograph shows the tunnel leading up to the monster Tunnel Boring Machine being used to dig for HS2. The rail industry is bracing for a downsizing of a major section of HS2, together with the project’s ballooning price tag – especially after the economic harm of the pandemic

The high-speed rail line has recently come under fire from critics who have questioned whether the project is worth its ballooning price tag

The high-speed rail line has recently come under fire from critics who have questioned whether the project is worth its ballooning price tag

Aerial pictures showed the devastation caused by the 557ft TBMs as acres of greenery was turned into a building site with stacks of metal and stone piled up in front of two vast burrows

Aerial pictures showed the devastation caused by the 557ft TBMs as acres of greenery was turned into a building site with stacks of metal and stone piled up in front of two vast burrows

Furious campaigners argued HS2 - which will run between London and Birmingham - poses 'a grave threat to the UK's ancient woods, with 108 at risk of loss or damage'. Pictured: The tunnel entrances near West Hyde

Furious campaigners argued HS2 – which will run between London and Birmingham – poses ‘a grave threat to the UK’s ancient woods, with 108 at risk of loss or damage’. Pictured: The tunnel entrances near West Hyde

HS2 blasted back at campaigners saying that only 0.29 square kilometres (0.11 square miles) of ancient woodland will be lost during the first phase. It comes after Tory backbencher Andrew Bridgen told the Commons the project will be 'loss-making' and won't be completed before 2041 - around 10 years later than planned

HS2 blasted back at campaigners saying that only 0.29 square kilometres (0.11 square miles) of ancient woodland will be lost during the first phase. It comes after Tory backbencher Andrew Bridgen told the Commons the project will be ‘loss-making’ and won’t be completed before 2041 – around 10 years later than planned

Ten 170 metre-long tunnel boring machines, which weigh up to 2,200 tonnes, will work 24 hours a day, seven days a week to bore and line the tunnels, covering around 15 metres per day. The tunnel boring machine will head south towards London to begin digging the tunnel, while a second tunnel will also be dug to create the twin bore tunnel. Each of the two tunnels will take around five months to dig. Pictured: A construction worker near concrete tunnel lining ring segments

Ten 170 metre-long tunnel boring machines, which weigh up to 2,200 tonnes, will work 24 hours a day, seven days a week to bore and line the tunnels, covering around 15 metres per day. The tunnel boring machine will head south towards London to begin digging the tunnel, while a second tunnel will also be dug to create the twin bore tunnel. Each of the two tunnels will take around five months to dig. Pictured: A construction worker near concrete tunnel lining ring segments

The final stage will see a 'green tunnel' built, where a soil 'roof' is constructed around the tunnel entrance to integrate it within the natural landscape, according to HS2's website. Pictured: A huge crane at the site to lift the concrete slabs

The final stage will see a ‘green tunnel’ built, where a soil ‘roof’ is constructed around the tunnel entrance to integrate it within the natural landscape, according to HS2’s website. Pictured: A huge crane at the site to lift the concrete slabs

A construction worker is pictured laying the concrete floor along a stretch of the HS2 tunnel yesterday. Work suspensions, social distancing and reduced productivity over the past 12 months saw HS2's costs soar by another £1.7bn in September - with the project's estimated overall budget now swelling over £106billion

A construction worker is pictured laying the concrete floor along a stretch of the HS2 tunnel yesterday. Work suspensions, social distancing and reduced productivity over the past 12 months saw HS2’s costs soar by another £1.7bn in September – with the project’s estimated overall budget now swelling over £106billion

Pictured: The huge tunnel entrances near West Hyde yesterday. Meanwhile, Northern leaders and the rail industry are braced for a downsizing of the a major section of the HS2 in a report expected to be published during or after the Cop26 summit

Pictured: The huge tunnel entrances near West Hyde yesterday. Meanwhile, Northern leaders and the rail industry are braced for a downsizing of the a major section of the HS2 in a report expected to be published during or after the Cop26 summit

A construction worker gives an idea of the scale of the cranes and concrete slabs being used to line the tunnel as he directs the operator yesterday. The high-speed rail linking Birmingham and Leeds, also known as the 'eastern leg', is no longer expected to be laid in full. It means HS2 trains will run at slower speeds on existing track for as much as 60 miles of the distance between the two cities

A construction worker gives an idea of the scale of the cranes and concrete slabs being used to line the tunnel as he directs the operator yesterday. The high-speed rail linking Birmingham and Leeds, also known as the ‘eastern leg’, is no longer expected to be laid in full. It means HS2 trains will run at slower speeds on existing track for as much as 60 miles of the distance between the two cities

Pictured: A member of the HS2 team speaks with a colleague as he walks along a stretch of the tunnel beneath the Chilterns yesterday. Journey times could take about an hour rather than 40 minutes, according to sources familiar with plans being considered by ministers. However, a compromise is said to have been struck following pressure from pro-HS2 northern leaders which could still see around 80 miles of high-speed track laid

Pictured: A member of the HS2 team speaks with a colleague as he walks along a stretch of the tunnel beneath the Chilterns yesterday. Journey times could take about an hour rather than 40 minutes, according to sources familiar with plans being considered by ministers. However, a compromise is said to have been struck following pressure from pro-HS2 northern leaders which could still see around 80 miles of high-speed track laid

Pictured: A view of a working area within the HS2 Tunnel Boring Machine. HS2 will link London to Birmingham in phase one before forking into two sections. The western leg connecting Birmingham with Manchester is expected to go ahead

Pictured: A view of a working area within the HS2 Tunnel Boring Machine. HS2 will link London to Birmingham in phase one before forking into two sections. The western leg connecting Birmingham with Manchester is expected to go ahead

A member of the HS2 team holds a pack of emergency rations as he stands within an emergency refuge shelter onboard the Tunnel Boring Machine (TBM) named Cecilia yesterday

A member of the HS2 team holds a pack of emergency rations as he stands within an emergency refuge shelter onboard the Tunnel Boring Machine (TBM) named Cecilia yesterday

The pilot gestures to her monitor screens as she discusses her role on the HS2 Tunnel Boring Machine yesterday. The Integrated Rail Plan is set to be published around mid-November after being delayed since January

The pilot gestures to her monitor screens as she discusses her role on the HS2 Tunnel Boring Machine yesterday. The Integrated Rail Plan is set to be published around mid-November after being delayed since January

Pictured: A view of the rear of the cutterhead at the front of the TBM. Phase 1 of HS2 was due to open in 2026, but in an update to Parliament in 2019, Transport Sinister Grant Shapps said the opening date would be pushed back to between 2028 and 2031

Pictured: A view of the rear of the cutterhead at the front of the TBM. Phase 1 of HS2 was due to open in 2026, but in an update to Parliament in 2019, Transport Sinister Grant Shapps said the opening date would be pushed back to between 2028 and 2031

A vehicle carries a load of concrete tunnel lining ring segments, which weigh an average 8.5 tonnes each, into one of two tunnels at the HS2 south portal site yesterday. In the HS2 six-monthly report to Parliament in March 2021, the DfT said the projected 'delivery into service' date range is between 2029 and 2033

A vehicle carries a load of concrete tunnel lining ring segments, which weigh an average 8.5 tonnes each, into one of two tunnels at the HS2 south portal site yesterday. In the HS2 six-monthly report to Parliament in March 2021, the DfT said the projected ‘delivery into service’ date range is between 2029 and 2033

A service vehicle pauses to drop off passengers on a stretch of the HS2 tunnel beneath the Chilterns yesterday. One contractor close to the project said that HS2 Ltd, the state-funded body responsible for delivering the line, 'doesn't really know how much Covid has added'. HS2 Ltd declined to comment when approached by MailOnline

A service vehicle pauses to drop off passengers on a stretch of the HS2 tunnel beneath the Chilterns yesterday. One contractor close to the project said that HS2 Ltd, the state-funded body responsible for delivering the line, ‘doesn’t really know how much Covid has added’. HS2 Ltd declined to comment when approached by MailOnline

A view of the rear of the cutterhead at the front of the HS2 Tunnel Boring Machine. Construction started on Phase 1 of the London to Birmingham line in August last year after more than a decade of planning. But the ballooning costs could add to Treasury fears that HS2 will be a black hole for taxpayers

A view of the rear of the cutterhead at the front of the HS2 Tunnel Boring Machine. Construction started on Phase 1 of the London to Birmingham line in August last year after more than a decade of planning. But the ballooning costs could add to Treasury fears that HS2 will be a black hole for taxpayers

Pictured: The tunnel wall including the semi-rigid air input tube (top) and slurry flow pipes are seen on a stretch of the HS2 tunnel beneath the Chilterns yesterday

Pictured: The tunnel wall including the semi-rigid air input tube (top) and slurry flow pipes are seen on a stretch of the HS2 tunnel beneath the Chilterns yesterday

A member of the HS2 team looks back along a stretch of the tunnel from onboard the Tunnel Boring Machine. The Department for Transport previously conceded to MailOnline that there had been 'unavoidable costs' arising from the Covid pandemic

A member of the HS2 team looks back along a stretch of the tunnel from onboard the Tunnel Boring Machine. The Department for Transport previously conceded to MailOnline that there had been ‘unavoidable costs’ arising from the Covid pandemic

Pictured: A view from within the HS2 Tunnel Boring Machine highlights the scale of the project. HS2 said it the high-speed line will reduce journey times between London and northern England and add capacity to Britain's crowded rail network

Pictured: A view from within the HS2 Tunnel Boring Machine highlights the scale of the project. HS2 said it the high-speed line will reduce journey times between London and northern England and add capacity to Britain’s crowded rail network

A crane lifts concrete tunnel lining ring segments, which weigh an average 8.5 tonnes each, in a storage area at the HS2 south portal site yesterday. 112,000 of these concrete segments will be required to be installed by the Tunnel Boring Machines to complete both tunnels

A crane lifts concrete tunnel lining ring segments, which weigh an average 8.5 tonnes each, in a storage area at the HS2 south portal site yesterday. 112,000 of these concrete segments will be required to be installed by the Tunnel Boring Machines to complete both tunnels

Pictured: The tunnel entrances on Wednesday. Critics have questioned whether the rail line is worth its ballooning price tag, especially after a pandemic that might permanently change people's travel habits

Pictured: The tunnel entrances on Wednesday. Critics have questioned whether the rail line is worth its ballooning price tag, especially after a pandemic that might permanently change people’s travel habits

HS2 costs soared another £1.7BILLION in past year due to Covid with total budget swelling to £106bn 

The cost of the controversial HS2 high-speed rail project has increased by a further £1.7billion over the past year due to social distancing measures and work suspensions caused by the pandemic.

Coronavirus and lockdown restrictions first imposed in March last year disrupted work at most HS2 sites, causing further delays which have put even more strain on the UK’s biggest infrastructure project.

Similar pressures have been reported by industry experts in projects ranging from Crossrail and the A303 Stonehenge tunnel to the Tideway tunnel and the Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant in Somerset.

As a result of work suspensions, social distancing measures, and reduced productivity over this year, costs have soared by around £1.7billion – another increase on the project’s estimated £106billion budget.

Opposition to the project is mounting, with local anger contributing to the Tory by-election defeat in Chesham and Amersham. The new line is due to run through the Buckinghamshire constituency. 

Tunnelling work is due to begin in Long Itchington Wood (pictured), Warwickshire, as part of phase one of the HS2 high-speed rail line, which will run between Birmingham and London

Tunnelling work is due to begin in Long Itchington Wood (pictured), Warwickshire, as part of phase one of the HS2 high-speed rail line, which will run between Birmingham and London

The costs associated with Phase 1 of the line between London and Birmingham have increased by as much as £800million, people close to the project told the FT. 

That increase follows an £800million rise announced by HS2 in October, including money spent on remediating the terminus site at Euston in London. 

The price of the Birmingham Interchange station also rose by £100million to £370million even before contractors have been appointed.  

One contractor close to the project said that HS2 Ltd, the state-funded body responsible for delivering the line, ‘doesn’t really know how much Covid has added’. HS2 Ltd declined to comment when approached by MailOnline.  

Construction started on Phase 1 of the London to Birmingham line in August last year after more than a decade of planning. But the ballooning costs could add to Treasury fears that HS2 will be a black hole for taxpayers. 

The Department for Transport conceded to MailOnline that there had been ‘unavoidable costs’ arising from the coronavirus pandemic. 

Advertisement