Burwash Common man visits super sewer tunnelling machine

14th May

Simon Smith

Simon Smith with his sister Ann

A Burwash Common resident visited London’s new super sewer to see a tunnelling machine named in honour of his aunt, a pioneering scientist.

The tunnel boring machine (TBM) ‘Ursula’ has started digging part of the Thames Tideway Tunnel, currently under construction to stop sewage overflows in the River Thames.

As is tradition in tunnelling, all of Tideway’s TBM have been given a female name. Ursula was named after Dr Audrey ‘Ursula’ Smith, a British cryobiologist who discovered the use of glycerol to protect human red bloody cells during freezing.

To celebrate the launch of Ursula, Simon Smith from Burwash Common and his sister Ann Duminil from Cardiff – Dr Smith’s nephew and niece – were invited to Tideway’s Kirtling Street site in Battersea and on to the TBM named after their aunt.

Speaking in April, before the launch of the TBM, Simon Smith said “As a family, we are enormously touched that Audrey’s memory has been so fittingly revived. It is a truly awe-inspiring project and, dare I say it, makes one proud of British engineering.”

Tideway’s TBMs are all named after inspirational women who lived or worked near Tideway’s construction sites, and were chosen in a public vote.

Ursula’s 7.5km subterranean drive is the longest on the project. She will pass through central London, passing world famous landmarks along the river including the Houses of Parliament, the London Eye and Tower Bridge.

As the ground conditions turn to chalk in east London, Ursula will have her cutterhead changed at Tideway’s Blackfriars Bridge site before continuing to Chambers Wharf in Bermondsey.

Millicent, Kirtling Street’s other TBM, was named after suffragist Dame Millicent Fawcett. Millicent started her westbound drive from Kirtling Street at the end of 2018 and has since completed over 1.7km of her 5km to Carnwath Road in Fulham.