TO celebrate the Patron Saint of Tunnellers and Miners, St Barbara, an Ealing priest today (4) blessed the two tunnel boring machines to be used on taking the HS2 rail line underground.

Father Timothy Gorham, of Ealing Abbey and St Benedict's parish, led the blessing ceremony, swapping traditional church garments for orange hi-vis clothing worn for safety on construction sites.

The priest blessed both portals of the twin-bored tunnel where two machines, named Emily and Anne after notable women, are being prepared for launch in the new year.

He also blessed two statues of St Barbara, which will be placed at the tunnel portal entrance, to guard over the workforce.

The practice is believed to date back to the earliest mining traditions.

The site in question is the Northolt Tunnel East, a 3.4mile bore which will form part of the 8.4mile twin-bored Northolt tunnel, running from Victoria Road in North Acton to West Ruislip.

The tunnel will ultimately carry HS2 services between Old Oak Common station and outer London when the line is completed. Emily and Anne will complete their own journeys at Greenford.