First-of-its-kind robot will reduce risk on HS2 TBMs

5 November 2020

HS2 Ltd has unveiled a robot designed to boost safety and efficiency during the ring-build process aboard two giant TBMs that will bore the 16km (10mi) Chiltern tunnels.

The robot was developed by main works contractor Align JV (comprising Bouygues Travaux Publics, Sir Robert McAlpine, and VolkerFitzpatrick) working in conjunction with TBM-builder Herrenknecht. The machine will soon become part of both TBMs boring the high-speed rail tunnels.

Similar in action to car-factory robots, the innovative 'Krokodyl' can perform potentially dangerous tasks which hitherto have been undertaken by humans: it can remove the wooden spacers between the stacked concrete segments and inserts the connection dowels.

According to HS2 Ltd, the robot is the first of its kind anywhere in the world. Its actions will facilitate the installation of the 112,000 tunnel segments required – each typically weighing eight tonnes – and removes the workforce from a potentially hazardous task. The robot’s second feature – the Dobydo – installs the connection dowels just prior to the placement of the segments. This also helps reduce the risk to operatives, boosting safety and efficiency.

HS2 Ltd Head of Tunnelling, Eddie Woods, said: “Safety is a key priority for HS2 and the introduction of these innovations that essentially remove personnel from harm’s way is an excellent example of the sort of initiatives we are pleased to see implemented on the project. It is one of the ways that 'safe at heart' can be achieved by minimising exposure in high risk locations.”