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Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 January, 2004, 13:36 GMT
Rail link tunnel breaks through
Tunnel boring machine
The giant boring machine has travelled five miles in 17 months
A giant boring machine has cut through to the surface near St Pancras station in north London completing a key stage of the Channel Tunnel rail link.

The machine, nicknamed Annie, has taken 17 months to cut through the five miles from Stratford in east London.

It is one part of the 24-mile second section of the link which runs from north Kent into St Pancras.

Passenger services are due to start running in 2007.

The first 46-mile section of the link from Folkestone to north Kent opened to passenger traffic in September 2003 with trains running from London's Waterloo station.

When the 5.2bn project is completed journey times from London to Paris will be reduced from two hours 40 minutes to two hours 15 minutes.

Houses threatened

The tunnelling machine, the length of a football pitch, had to shift about 792,000 tonnes of earth a week as it cut through London.

The excavation work is believed to have caused a landslip in Stratford a year ago when a 10-metre (32ft) hole opened up, threatening a row of houses.

The hole had to be filled with concrete to stabilise the ground.

And residents near King's Cross, next to St Pancras, are fighting plans by the contractors to work round the clock on the project to stay on schedule.

A government planning inspector is holding a two-day inquiry into the proposals.

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