ATLAS COPCO is to wind up its Robbins tunnel boring machine production operation just five years after buying the historic US manufacturer.
Increasing demand for reconditioned rather than new hard rock tunnelling TBMs has driven the Swedish plant giant to cancel production of new machines, concentrating on the second-hand TBM market and other core tunnelling equipment.
The decision will hit UK manufacturer Markham, which has been working under subcontract to build Robbins machines since its joint venture to supply two of the five Robbins TBMs used on the Channel Tunnel. The last new machine built in Chesterfield was a 10m diameter TBM, which is being loaded ready for shipping to New Zealand this week.
Markham director of tunnelling Richard Lewis said that combined with the delays on the Channel Tunnel Rail Link its joint venture with Kawasaki is one of five shortlisted manufacturers Atlas Copcos decision was not good news. In the past all our orders have come through Robbins and if they are not selling TBMs we will not be making them.
However, Lewis added that other areas of its business, such as the joint venture work with Kawasaki, was doing well and there was no risk of lay offs. He added that Markham was now exploring other options and acquiring the Robbins name was not ruled out.
A spokesman for Atlas Copco said that although the last two new Robbins machines would be delivered in September, it would continue to sell reconditioned machines. It currently has an order for five rebuilt machines for water projects in Hong Kong. It will also continue with its raise boring and associated tunnelling equipment manufacture.