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Inspirational women honoured by Tideway tunnel boring machine names

Names of the six tunnel boring machines (TBM) that will deliver the Thames Tideway Tunnel have been announced and are aimed to honour inspirational women with a local connection to the sites.

Dame Millicent Fawcett is one of two suffragists honoured by the naming of the tunnel boring machines for the Thames Tideway Tunnel

“Our goal is to achieve gender parity at Tideway by the end of construction and to help inspire a future generation of female engineers and women working in construction,” said Tideway head of programme integration Jackie Roe. “It’s apt that the six winning names for our TBMs represent women who were pioneering engineers and scientists, who fought for gender equality and left a momentous legacy in London and beyond.”

The first will be named after suffragist leader Dame Millicent Fawcett – who is about to become the first woman to be honoured with a statue in Parliament Square.

Millicent Fawcett will drive a tunnel in the central section from Battersea where she lived.

The second TBM, which will also drive central section tunnels, will be christened Ursula after British cryobiologist Audrey Ursula Smith who discovered the use of glycerol to protect human red blood cells during freezing.

The TBM building the west section of the tunnel will set off from Fulham and has been named after Rachel Parsons, an engineer and advocate for women’s employment rights, who set up the first women-only engineering company in Fulham.

The TBM that will tunnel the east section from Bermondsey has been named after Selina Fox, a pioneering doctor who set up Bermondsey Medical Mission for Southwark’s poor and disadvantaged residents.

The smaller Frogmore Connection Tunnel, from Wandsworth to Fulham, will be tunnelled by a machine named Charlotte, who is named after Charlotte Despard, a key leader in the Suffragette movement and political activist who lived in Wandsworth.

The Greenwich Connection Tunnel is named after Annie Scott Dill Russell, the first female scientist to work at the Greenwich Observatory and worked as a “lady computer”. She worked for the Astronomer Royal, Willian Christie, and paved the way for women in science.

The names for the TBMs were voted for by the public earlier this year from a shortlist of 17 women.

The first TBM is due to arrive on site by the end of this year and tunnelling on Tideway will start next year.

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