HS2 boosts safety and efficiency with innovative robot for tunnelling machines


HS2 boosts safety and efficiency with innovative robot for tunnelling machines

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HS2 today unveiled the use of an innovative onboard robot that will improve safety and efficiency on the high speed rail project’s first two giant tunnelling machines, set to launch early next year.

Pioneered by HS2’s main works contractor, Align, the Krokodyl robot is the first of its kind anywhere in the world and will be installed in the two tunnel boring machines (TBMs) that will be used to bore the 10 mile (16km) long Chiltern tunnels.

The Krokodyl robot, working in a similar manner to the robotic arms used in a car factory production line, will carry out  simple repetitive tasks – removing wooden spacers between tunnel segments and inserting connection dowels – that people would normally do.

Each of the segments weighs up to eight tonnes and are delivered to the TBM with wooden spacers between them which are generally removed by hand. By fully automating this process, the Krokodyl removes the need for people to work in this potentially hazardous area and helps with the installation of the 112,000 tunnel segments.

The tunnel segments are erected – as the TBM moves forward – in order to form a structural water tight ring designed to support the ground loads.

A second feature of the robot, known as the Dobydo, then places the dowels into position ready for the segment to be slotted into place. Again, by automating this process, the robot reduces risk to people and improve safety and efficiency.

The Align joint venture – a team made up of Bouygues Travaux Publics, Sir Robert McAlpine, and VolkerFitzpatrick – built on their experience of delivering major tunnelling project across the world to develop the Krokodyl.

Eddie Woods, HS2 Ltd’s Head of Tunnelling 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.”

You can see a video of the robot in action here: