Today (Monday 4th December), the site of the next set of tunnels to be bored by two tunnel boring machines (TBMs) due to build HS2’s tunnels under the capital were blessed by a local priest, on the day celebrating the Patron Saint of Tunnellers and Miners, St Barbara.
Father Timothy Gorham of Ealing Abbey and Benedict's Parish Ealing led the blessing ceremony, swapping traditional church garments for orange hi-vis PPE worn for safety on construction sites.
The priest blessed both portals of the twin bored tunnel where two TBMs, named Emily and Anne after notable local women, are being prepared for launch in the new year. He also blessed two statues of St Barbara which will be placed at the tunnel portal entrance, to protect the underground tunnellers as they work.
The practice is believed to date back to the earliest mining traditions.
The tunnel being constructed is the Northolt Tunnel East, a 3.4mile tunnel which will form part of the 8.4mile twin bored Northolt tunnel, running from Victoria Road in North Acton to West Ruislip. The tunnel will ultimately carry HS2 services between Old Oak Common station and outer London when the line is completed. TBMs Emily and Anne will complete their journey in Greenford. Both TBMs weigh 1,700 tonne and are 170m in length.