The Mayor of London has announced that tunnelling for the Northern Line extension (NLE) will begin in March 2017. The news was confirmed as principal contractor Ferrovial Agroman Laing O'Rourke (FLO) welcomed Deputy Mayor for Transport, Val Shawcross, to unveil the two gigantic Tunnel Boring Machines (TBMs) at the NLE Battersea Power Station site on 20 January 2017. The two 650-tonne TBMs are 6m in diameter and each measure the length of a football pitch. They will create two 3.2km underground tunnels to extend the Charing Cross branch of the Northern line from Kennington to Battersea, via Nine Elms. Following tunnelling tradition, TBMs are given women's names as this represents good luck for the works ahead. Val Shawcross announced the NLE names to be 'Helen' and 'Amy' in honour of the first British astronaut, Helen Sharman, and British aviation pioneer Amy Johnson, who was the first female pilot to fly solo from Britain to Australia. The names were decided by local school children as part of the project's community engagement activities. Luis Rallo, Deputy Project Director of the Northern Line Extension, said:
'At Ferrovial Agroman Laing O'Rourke (FLO) we are proud of delivering this flagship project for Londoners. Unveiling these TBMs is a momentous occasion, particularly with the naming in honour of two significant women who represent STEM in Britain. We are confident that this critical part of the job will be delivered safely, on time and to the standards that have already been set by the FLO team in other tunnelling and civil works within the Northern Line Extension. We are firmly focused on continuing to inspire young generations into the industry.'Having the project ready to launch main tunnelling represents a major milestone for the NLE. Mark Wild, Managing Director of London Underground, said: "This is a significant moment in the history of London Underground as we prepare to start tunneling to create the first extension to our historic Tube network for nearly two decades. The Northern Line Extension will bring Battersea and surrounding areas to within 15 minutes of the West End and City. It will also help us to support jobs, homes and growth in this part of south London, help keep pace with the Capital's rapidly rising population, and is creating jobs through the supply chain across the UK."
Ravi Govindia, leader of Wandsworth Council, said: "This Tube extension is already transforming the fortunes of north Battersea and it's a great pleasure to see these two colossal machines are here and ready to start work. The Nine Elms regeneration programme is one of the greatest sources of new jobs and homes in the country and this would not be possible without the Tube link."The machines will tunnel up to depths of up to 26 metres for six months, excavating more than 300,000 tonnes of earth. This will then be passed along conveyors before being loaded on to barges and taken to Goshems Farm in East Tilbury, Essex, where it will be used to create arable farmland. This will remove more than 40,000 lorry journeys from the Capital's roads, reducing congestion and significantly reducing the site's carbon footprint.