Who are Evelyn and Cleopatra, and why are they tunneling under London?

As Londoners go about their business on the city’s streets and sidewalks, Evelyn and Cleopatra will be hard at work deep below the surface, tunneling through the ground to create a 32-kilometer (about 20 miles) “subterranean electricity superhighway.”

The two giant Tunnel Boring Machines, or TBMs, were named by local children in contests run by National Grid, the energy company behind the London Power Tunnel project. Over the next several years, Evelyn and Cleopatra will dig three tunnels under the city to connect several National Grid substations and enable the installation of new high-voltage electricity cables to support London’s future energy needs.

By laying new cables underground in concrete-lined tunnels, National Grid says it will help make future maintenance and repair less disruptive. Streets will no longer need to be dug up to install new cables or fix existing ones, making it easier to keep up with the city’s evolving energy needs.

“London Power Tunnels is one of the most exciting engineering projects happening in the world today,” said Gareth Burden, National Grid project manager. “It will play a vital role in keeping Londoners connected to the energy they use. Our work will help ensure London has the power infrastructure to support it as a world class leader in business, commerce, sport and tourism, both now and into the future.”

Evelyn and Cleopatra are expected to be finished digging, with all new cables installed, by 2018.

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