Some facts about the Clyde Tunnel: The Clyde Tunnel is the length of seven football pitches. It cost £10.5m to build. Work started in July 1957. The construction involved a tunnel shield invented 139 years earlier by Marc Brunel. The first tunnel opened in July 1963, the second in March 1964. The tunnel is used by 65,000 vehicles every day It is 21ft below the surface of the river Clyde.
Work on the project started in 1957 and the first of the two parallel tunnel “bores” between Whiteinch and Govan was opened by the Queen on July 3, 1963. The second followed in March the following year. The tunnel is the length of seven football pitches and sits 21ft below the River Clyde.
The total cost of building the Clyde Tunnel was £10,500,000 which was a lot as the average house price in 1964 was £3,600 and a small car cost around £500. If you tried to build the Clyde Tunnel today it would cost around £200million. The amount of traffic that passess through the tunnel was estimated to be around 9000 a day. The actual number of vehicles back in 1965 was over 20,000 a day. The number of vehicles using the Clyde Tunnel back in 2004 was 65,000 vehicles every day.
If you want to cycle through the tunnel the cycle paths actually runs under the road tunnels.
When you look at the Clyde Tunnel it appears to be an arch but it is in fact a complete circle. With ventilation shafts and cycle routes underneath.
The Clyde Tunnel replaced the three Govan Ferries. The Govan ferry at the bottom of McKechnie Street, the other ferry at Water Row which was not only a passenger ferry but also a vehicle ferr too and the Renfrew ferry. The Renfrew Ferry was a chain driven ferry. The ferry pulled itself across the Clyde on a chain the the ramp where it landed on both sides of the Clyde. Before the Tunnel was built there were Ferry terminals, 250 houses, a church, a bowling green and allotments.
The way they shifted all the earth from the tunnel was on a small railway they built with open wagons. This took earth back up to the surface and the wagons had to pass through airlocks to preserve the air pressure in the tunnel shield. They stopped the tunnel from colapsing By injecting cement and clay into the earth as they went. This had to stick gravel and sand together in the tunnel so the walls didn’t collapse in on them.
To stop water coming into the tunnel as they men dug, they had to increase the air pressure in the digging chamber. The reason for this is because if the air pressure inside the tunnel is greater than the pressure outside the tunnel, it will stop water and gravel coming in.
They don't use that technique much today because working under pressure is like deep sea diving. The miners all had to be decompressed every time they came out into the normal air pressure or they would end up getting the bends just like a diver would if he/she came back to the surface too quick. The decompression could take them over an hour each time they returned to the surface. Like I said; if it wasn’t done properly, the men had to be recompressed to the original pressure and go through the whole process again.
During the digging of the Clyde Tunnel 469 workers had to be recompressed due to ‘the bends’ 71 cases were serious, as listed here: Vertigo, nausea and vomiting 36. Collapse and/or unconsciousness18 men. Severe abdominal pains 10 men. Respiratory distress there was 5 but two of these were fatal and the men died. Reporting a pain in chest just one and severe pains in headalso one too. There was an explosion in the first of the two tunnels which was caused by compressed air finding an escape route up into the river, which built up an air pocket in the soil and then burst out through the water in a huge fountain. The Clyde Tunnel is 762 metres long. In 1964 it was the steepest tunnel ever built. If you drive through the tunnel at a speed os 30mph it would take you 57 seconds to go from one end of the tunnel to the other. The traffic in each tunnel is one way. The reason for this is that ‘one way’ traffic has almost double the flow of ‘two way’ traffic. It also allows traffic to continue in one tunnel while the other is closed for maintenance.
The Portal Buildings at either end of the tunnels were given a nautical design, as they are near the Clyde Shipyards. They are filled with 18 huge fans that take away car fumes and pump fresh air in. The North Portal building holds a control room with a high tech. camera system, it can sense if traffic has stopped and will sound an alarm. There are water pumps under both buildings, and one in the middle of each tunnel. Water and rain is collected in underground chambers and is then pumped into the main drain system. You can read more information about the Clyde Tunnel here at Wikipedia. CLICK HERE TO GO THERE.
The way they built the Tunnel was by using a shield which had been invented 139 years before by Marc Brunel when he built the Thames Tunnel. Although the Clyde Tunnel version was smaller, only having space for sixteen miners and not the thirty six used in the Thames Tunnel. in 1818 Marc Brunel patented his ‘Circular Tunnel Shield’ and the crazy thing was that Brunel got the idea from watching a wood-boring worm while he was in the debtors prison for the debt he was unable to pay.
Marc Brunel and his son Isambard Kingdom Brunel in 1825 began their work on the Thames Tunnel in London, using his Tunnel Shield. The shield was divided into thirty six cells, each cell holding a miner who was digging on his own independently. The Thames tunnel was opened in 1843 and was an unprecedented success, more so because the Thames River has quicksand under it and all previous attempts had failed. They held a candlelit banquet in the tunnel to celebrate which later became part of the London Underground system. The Clyde tunnel work started in 1957 and was fully completed in 1964. I can still remember it only being a young boy of sixteen years of age. I remember the Queen and Prince Philip there opening the first tunnel.
Here’s a question for you: What is at least 2500 feet or 7620 meters long? It takes 57 seconds to pass along and lies 6 metres or 19.685 feet below the bottom of the River Clyde? As a child I used to try and hold my breath through it? Learner drivers dread it and it is estimated that nearly half a billion people, that is In the traditional British system half a billion = 500,000,000,000 have used it since it was first built. Any ideas? Correct answer is simply, “the Clyde Tunnel”
This Clyde Tunnel view is looking south at the carriageway in road bay in 1962
The Queen and Prince Philip in the royal car driving out of the Clyde Tunnel 1963 on opening day.
How the Clyde Tunnel was constructed cross view
This is the Govan Entrance and Exit Roadway to and from the Tunnel back in the Circa 1965
This is a view of the same section of road, the Govan Exit and Entrance but is only used as the Govan Road exit
You can just see the Bedford Van turning off into the Govan Road exit of the Tunnel on the right Middle of above Picture.
Govan Exit centre of picture behine the white car