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Thames Tideway Tunnel Boring Machines Named

Tideway Kirtling Street site

Published on
November 7, 2017


A suffragist leader who will soon become the first woman to be honoured with a statue in Parliament Square has inspired the name of one of the machines that will dig London’s new ‘super sewer’.

Tunnelling for the Thames Tideway Tunnel, which will help tackle sewage pollution in the River Thames, is due to start next year and will use six machines to create the 25km main tunnel and two smaller connection tunnels.

The giant tunnel boring machines (TBMs), which range from 2.6m to 7.2m in diameter, have been named after six inspirational women with a connection to the area where each machine will start its journey.

Dame Millicent Fawcett, an English feminist, intellectual, political and union leader, and writer who is primarily known for her work as a campaigner for women to have the vote, will lend her name to one of the machines building the Central section of the tunnel from Battersea where she lived.

Sam Smethers, Chief Executive of the Fawcett Society, said:

“We’re delighted that Millicent Fawcett is being celebrated by one of London’s biggest and most important infrastructure projects. The Fawcett Society continues to build on Millicent’s work to improve women’s rights and, with Tideway’s goal to reach gender parity in its workforce by the end of construction and to encourage a future generation of female engineers, we think this is a wonderful way to celebrate her legacy.”

The second TBM for the central area will be called Ursula, after Audrey ‘Ursula’ Smith, a British cryobiologist who discovered the use of glycerol to protect human red blood cells during freezing.

The TBM building the west section of the tunnel will set off from Fulham and has been named after Rachel Parsons, an engineer and advocate for women’s employment rights, who set up the first women-only engineering company in Fulham.

The TBM that will tunnel the east section from Bermondsey has been named after Selina Fox, a pioneering doctor who set up Bermondsey Medical Mission for Southwark’s poor and disadvantaged residents.

The smaller Frogmore Connection Tunnel, from Wandsworth to Fulham, will be tunnelled by a machine named Charlotte, who is named after Charlotte Despard, a key leader in the Suffragette movement and political activist who lived in Wandsworth.

The Greenwich Connection Tunnel is named after Annie Scott Dill Russell, the first female scientist to work at the Greenwich Observatory and worked as a ‘Lady Computer’. She worked for the Astronomer Royal, Willian Christie, and paved the way for women in science.

Jackie Roe, Head of Programme Integration at Tideway, said:

“Our goal is to achieve gender parity at Tideway by the end of construction and to help inspire a future generation of female engineers and women working in construction. It’s apt that the six winning names for our TBMs represent women who were pioneering engineers and scientists, who fought for gender equality and left a momentous legacy in London and beyond.”

The winning names were voted for by the public earlier in the year, from a shortlist of 17 women.

The first machine is due to arrive in London later in the year, before tunnelling under London starts next year.

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