Tunnel breakthrough TBM under river Tees (Video)

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The tunnel boring machine made a breakthrough for Farrans on its mammoth 57km Project Pipeline  for Northumbrian Water which completed by breaking through.

The video shows the moment that ‘Penelope’, the tunnel boring machine, broke through to the west shaft, completing its 220m journey under the River Tees.

The tunnelling took just under five weeks to complete, having started at the base of the 46 metre deep east shaft in April, reaching the 32 metre deep west shaft on Wednesday.

The machine will now be lifted out, using a special crane, with the team, comprising our client Northumbrian Water, Farrans Construction and specialists Joseph Gallagher Limited, set to make a start on the next phase.

This will include sealing work before twin water mains are installed horizontally through the tunnel. Putting two mains through the tunnel adds resilience to this £155m investment, ensuring a back-up is readily available in case of any problems.

The pipeline will connect Lartington Water Treatment Works with around 200,000 of our customers across the south of County Durham and across into Teesside.

Dave Mellor, Contracts Director for Farrans, commented saying that: “This highly technical and challenging operation has been a best-practice example of innovative civil engineering and we are delighted to have completed it successfully and on schedule.

“I would like to thank our team, our specialist contractors Joseph Gallagher and our client for collaboratively achieving this important milestone in a project which will secure the water supply to this region for years to come. The moment of break through into the west shaft was a cause for celebration on site following weeks of slow, incremental progress to create the tunnel.”

James Dawes, Northumbrian Water’s Project Manager said: “This project has been years in the planning, and ensuring that key strategic crossings, such as the River Tees, are done in the best way possible for the local environment and communities, has been vital.

“While it would have been possible to cross the Tees using a pipe-bridge, we had to consider such factors as how this would impact the stunning Teesdale landscape that will be here long after our team have completed the project and moved on.

“The use of no dig techniques, tunnelling or directional drilling, is becoming increasingly common in our projects, to reduce the impact on our region’s road and rail networks by reducing the need to dig long trenches.

“However, this is the first time we have employed it to cross a large river and the teams at Farrans and Joseph Gallagher Limited have done a great job to make this possible.”

In County Durham and Tees Valley, Farrans will be improving the underground network of water pipes, installing 34km of new pipes, 800mm in diameter, between Lartington  Water Treatment Works and Shildon via Whorley Hill. We’re taking the pipeline across the River Tees at two locations. At Cotherstone, we’re constructing a tunnel that will run 20m under the river bed and, at Alwent Beck, we’re building a pipe bridge.

The project is expected to complete in summer 2025.