A giant drill which will be used to build Thames Water’s new four-mile Lee Tunnel was switched on for the first time earlier this week during a handing-over ceremony in Germany.
The £635m tunnel is believed to be the deepest ever built in the UK and is being constructed to transport the 16 million tonnes of sewage which currently enters the River Lee each year.
A team of experts from Thames Water will test the machine over the next two weeks ahead of it being disassembled and shipped to the UK.
Thames say the ceremony is the first and last time the machine will be seen by the public in its entirety as it will be reassembled 80 metres below ground.
Lawrence Gosden, Thames Water’s head of capital delivery, said: “This machine is the best of its kind in the world. Tunnelling is a risky business, especially on a project of this scale, so it’s essential we use the best available technology and ensure every last detail meets our unique requirements.
“The Lee Tunnel is the first of two tunnels, which will collectively capture an average of 39 million tonnes a year of sewage from the 35 most polluting combined sewer overflows. The Lee Tunnel will tackle discharges from London’s largest overflow at Abbey Mills in Stratford, which accounts for 40 per cent of the total discharge. That’s why we’re dealing with this, the worst one, first.”
Thames estimate the work on the tunnel to be completed by late 2013 and says the new drill is “likely to progress at a rate of 17 metres a day.”