• ‘Great British Railway Journeys’ to feature HS2’s first completed tunnel in Warwickshire
  • Journalist, broadcaster and former politician Michael Portillo visited HS2’s Long Itchington Wood site to film inside the tunnel
  • It will be aired in the ‘Long Itchington to Moseley’ episode on BBC Two at 6.30pm on Wednesday 19 July

Journalist, broadcaster and former politician Michael Portillo has visited the first completed tunnel on the HS2 project in Warwickshire as part of his popular TV travel series.

Great British Railway Journeys’ sees the personality covering the length and breadth of the country by rail, and this week he walks through HS2’s mile-long Long Itchington Wood Tunnel. In years to come, bullet-style trains – capable of speeds up to 225mph – will travel through the tunnel, linking the South, the Midlands, the North and Scotland on Britain’s new high-speed railway.

Viewers will see Michael welcomed onboard one of HS2’s giant tunnel boring machines (TBM) during construction of the first of the twin tunnels, which are designed to protect the ancient woodland above. Michael also joined the machine’s pilot in the control cabin to see first-hand how the tunnel segments are put in place.

During his visit, Michael commented:

“I was really excited to go down to the tunnel boring machine, Dorothy. It’s a while now since we built a major new intercity railway and it’s happening here.”

While overlooking the Long Itchington construction site, Michael also interviewed rail engineer Gareth Dennis, who gave the presenter a potted history of high-speed rail in the UK.

Doug Barnett, Senior Project Manager, HS2 Ltd, said:

“It was a pleasure welcoming Michael and the Great British Railway Journeys team down to our Long Itchington Wood site and his visit certainly created a buzz as we’re all fans of the show.

“Everyone is incredibly proud of the work achieved to date on the tunnels and to be able to showcase that on national television is a real highlight for the 400-strong team who have made this happen.”

Alongside HS2, the ‘Long Itchington to Moseley’ episode of ‘Great British Railway Journeys’ will also see Michael visit Stratford-upon-Avon and Birmingham. The episode will be broadcast on BBC Two at 6.30pm on Wednesday 19 July and will be available on BBC iPlayer immediately afterwards.

Since filming wrapped on the documentary last year, the 125-metres long TBM went on to complete its first bore. ‘Dorothy’ was then dismantled and returned to the north portal where she was reassembled ahead of a second one-mile drive that broke through in March this year.

The machine’s shield was then dismantled, while the rest of the machine was pulled back to the start of the tunnel and disassembled, ready for transportation to East Birmingham. There, the TBM will be fitted with a new shield so that it can begin a 3.5-mile tunnel bore in early 2024, between Water Orton in Warwickshire and Washwood Heath in Birmingham, joining a second machine, named ‘Mary Ann’.