Tunnelling starts at Silvertown crossing

Transport for London and main contractor Riverlinx have confirmed that work has now started  on the 1.4km drive for the Silvertown Tunnel which will link Newham to the Greenwich Peninsula.

The project is being built by a joint venture between BAM Nuttall, Ferrovial Construction and SK Ecoplant, known as Riverlinx Construction.


Since construction work on the project began in 2020, a huge amount of work has been delivered to prepare for the start of tunnelling, including the delivery of the launch chamber for the tunnel boring machine (TBM), a conveyor system built to remove excavated materials and also repairs to the river wall made to ensure it is not affected while tunnelling takes place.

Around 780 people are working full-time on the project, including a number of local apprentices who are benefiting from working on a major construction project in their area.

Aside from a small section around the tunnel entrances, which will be built using a ‘cut and cover’ technique, the two bores that make up the Silvertown Tunnel are being built using one 82 metre-long TBM, named ‘Jill’ in honour of Jill Viner, the first female bus driver in London.

The TBM has a cutter face of 11.91m and is so large, that it had to be transported to the UK in pieces and then assembled within the launch chamber.

Now launched, it will progress under the river at around 10 metres every day and once the first tunnel is completed, will then be turned around to head back to Newham and complete the second tunnel.

Across the course of the project, nearly 600,000 tonnes of material will be excavated and removed from site via barges along the river as part of the project’s wider commitment to keep construction traffic and associated emissions to a minimum.

More than 150 barges have already been used to deliver or remove materials and waste from site, removing at least 18,000 lorries from the road. The excavated materials from tunnelling will be transported along the Thames via barge to a former landfill site in Essex as part of a restoration scheme.

Alongside the tunnelling, Riverlinx will be shortly commencing work to realign the road network in Newham and Greenwich to link in with the new tunnel.

Juan Angel Martinez, Project Director at Riverlinx CJV, said: “This really is a terrific achievement which has only been made possible by the excellent effort and collaboration of everyone involved.

“I’m very proud of everything this project and our team is delivering, knowing how important it is to us and our supply chain to deliver the programme safely and responsibly, providing sustainable opportunities, career growth and benefits to the local communities and our people. Jill’s journey is an excellent milestone to celebrate.”

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