Transporting tunnel boring machine Mary

Jon Lawson

With the National Grid being awarded the £100m contract to excavate a 5km tunnel under the River Humber in England to carry a replacement gas pipeline, Fracht UK Projects appointed Collett & Sons to collaboratively work with and deliver the disassembled tunnel boring machine from Immingham docks to Goxhill.  

The tunnel boring machine, named Mary, had been manufactured in Baden-Wurttemberg in Germany, with Fracht AG designing a transport solution from Germany alongside a vessel in Rotterdam for onward shipment to Immingham. 18 months ahead of TBM Mary’s arrival at the port, Fracht UK and Collett & Sons worked in collaboration to devise a cohesive plan for delivery.  

The machine consisted of four components: A 30 Tonne Cutter Head, 70 Tonne Shield, 95 Tonne Machine Can and a 20 Tonne Tail Shield. On the arrival of the vessel at the DFDS Immingham Terminal each of the four components were surveyed and Inspected by Fracht UK before being loaded to Collett’s awaiting trailers for the 27 mile journey to North Lincolnshire.
Although this would only be a short journey the route posed several obstacles which required meticulous planning ahead of the project taking place.  

Beginning with a desk based study to identify loading configurations for the four components, and the most suitable route on which to transport them, the team discovered early in the planning process that this would not be a straightforward project. After undertaking a visual route inspection the Project Managers catalogued the entire proposed transport course for further investigation to ensure the 40m (L) x 4.6m (H) 4.5m (W) loaded combination would successfully navigate the landscape. 
With numerous tight bends and turns identified along the route several swept path analysis reports using Ordnance Survey Mastermap Data had to be completed. The largest loaded component, the machine can, featured a 29m rigid length, and utilising these dimensions allowed the team to mimic the trailer and vehicle’s behaviour at select parts of the route to identify any amendments to the surrounding topography or manual steering requirements to ensure safe passage.

Over three days all four cargoes were unloaded from the vessel and safely transported to the Humber Gas Pipeline Project National Grid Site. Once assembled the tunnel boring machine will be used to build a replacement high pressure gas pipeline from Goxhill to Paull housed within a tunnel underneath the River Humber. The pipeline will replace the existing one which lies on the riverbed and is due for completion in 2019. 

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