Super sewer tunnelling machine gets started at Nine Elms

Published: Thursday 29th November 18

The first machine digging London’s super sewer has started work at Kirtling Street in Battersea.

Tunnelling on the 25km Thames Tideway Tunnel began as Millicent, a tunnel boring machine named after suffragist Millicent Fawcett, moved westbound from Nine Elms and laid the first ring in the tunnel.

Millicent is tunnelling through the ground using a rotating cutterhead and simultaneously creating the tunnel walls with prefabricated segments of concrete.

Tideway tunnelling machine Millicent

The Thames Tideway Tunnel has been divided into three sections – east, west and central – with each section being constructed by a different joint venture of contractors.

Millicent is one of two tunnel boring machines that will build the 13km central section of the main tunnel, while two more machines will dig the 7km west section and the 5.5km east section.

A smaller machine will dig the 1.1km Frogmore Connection Tunnel in Wandsworth.

Local infrastructure improvements

The Nine Elms section of the Tideway Tunnel is part of a wider package of infrastructure improvements for the area as 20,000 new homes will be built by 2030. Other projects include the extension of the Northern Line with two new stations, opening up the riverside path, and improvements to cycling routes, pedestrian footways and crossings on Nine Elms Lane.

The whole Tideway project is set to finish across London in 2023, modernising the capital’s ageing sewage system for the next 100 years.

Construction of the super sewer, which will tackle sewage pollution in the River Thames, will create more than 4,000 jobs in total - including more than 700 people working directly on, or in support of, tunnelling.

Tideway has also announced new tunnelling apprenticeship opportunities with contractors delivering the project. This is the first time the Tunnelling Operative apprenticeship has been offered in the industry, offering trainees a chance to learn tunnelling skills while studying at the same time.

By the end of the apprenticeship, individuals will be competent tunnelling operatives able to assist with the excavation, support and forming of tunnels and shafts. They will learn typical tunnelling methods such as hand tunnelling, machine tunnelling, pipe-jacking, sprayed concrete lining, shaft sinking and drill and blast.

To find out more information about the apprenticeship, contact TunnelSkills at To register your interest in the apprenticeship role, email

More information on the tunnel on the Tideway website

Discover what’s going on in Nine Elms on the Nine Elms London website

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