A LASER-GUIDED tunnelling machine has been dropped under Shanklin's streets on a mission to make bathing water cleaner at the beach.

Shanklin Beach should benefit from the Southern Water improvements that are part of a £4 million investment to stem pollution in the Island's seas.

On Thursday (January 10), before it was plunged below the tarmac, the tunnel boring machine was renamed Marthur after tunnel workers complained its former name, Arthur, broke tradition.

A Southern Water spokesman explained tunnel boring machines are traditionally given women's names, in a similar tradition to naming ships, aircraft and other machinery that can be a danger to human life.

The machine will soon be burrowing at seven metres per day beneath St Boniface Cliff Road and the wider area to construct a giant underground tank to store storm water. The massive tank which will be able to hold up to 750,000 litres – or 1,319,815 pints – will help to improve the quality of water in the bay.

Chris O’Grady, Southern Water’s senior project manager for the Bathing Water Enhancement Programme, said: "We've been working very closely with the council to help protect and enhance the bathing water quality in the region. We know work like this can be disruptive and we'd like to say a really big thank you to everyone for their patience and understanding.

“The local beaches and bathing waters are the lifeblood of this community and we’re delighted to be playing our part in helping to improve them.”

During heavy rain the sewer system can be overwhelmed and water companies are permitted by the Environment Agency to discharge the highly diluted mixture of wastewater and rain out to sea in order to protect homes and businesses. The new tank will cut such storm discharges by as much as a third.