Crossrail tunnel; Crossrail tunnel;

Tunnel design

Tunnels provide the networks that underpin much of our lives. From water, sewer, cables and utilities to hyperloops, high speed rail, metros, roads, mines, science projects and industry, they connect us with vital resources, services and each other.

Jon Hurt

Jon Hurt

Global Tunnel Design Leader

Tunnels provide the networks that underpin much of our lives. From water, sewer, cables and utilities to hyperloops, high speed rail, metros, roads, mines, science projects and industry, they connect us with vital resources, services and each other.

Today, the underground environment we used to rely on to take congestion off our city streets is as busy and congested as life above ground. We are going further and deeper than ever before to help cities fulfil their potential. We design complex projects that navigate this congested underground world and are resilient to the impacts of our warming world. Our teams are aligning both climate and cost imperatives as we explore ways to reduce the resources and materials used in construction and plan for their eventual reuse and recycling.

How we help: Total Tunnel Design

For engineers, tunnel design presents the same challenges that submarine design creates for naval architects. How to deliver the required performance and house all services in limited space – often no more than 6 metres across - while protecting the comfort and safety of those using it? Our approach to reconciling these competing demands is ‘Total Tunnel Design’.

Total Tunnel Design seamlessly integrates every discipline involved in successful tunnel projects. It is inspired by our founder, Ove Arup, who pioneered what he called ‘total architecture’. Beyond the core tunnel disciplines of civil architecture, geotechnics, machinery and soil mechanics, our global team includes experts in ventilation, lighting, MEP, acoustics, fire, drainage, safety and public health.

By integrating these skills, our tunnel designs are lower-risk and more efficient, effective and affordable. The designs our Total Tunnel Design approach makes possible are also sustainable, reducing excavation and materials by effective space proofing and lining system optimisation and introducing innovations such as extracting heat from tunnel linings.

Ventilation

Ventilation

Ventilation systems can undermine the feasibility of tunnel projects. As part of our Total Tunnel Design ethos, our experts harness natural ventilation where possible, or – beyond codes – use sophisticated modelling to right-size any additional plant to unlock efficient, affordable designs. The ventilation systems they design also incorporate the needs for future-proofing tunnels for a rapidly-changing transport environment where the mass use of electric vehicles is being mandated by many developed jurisdictions.

Find out more about our tunnel ventilation expertise

Fire and life safety

Fire and life safety

Our fire team is recognized as a world leader. By including their detailed insights and innovative solutions into fire risks and mitigation in our Total Tunnel Design, we have been able to greatly reduce the cost and time of many construction projects.

Find out more about our fire safety expertise

Systems

Systems

Our Total Tunnel Design approach means that systems – their installation, maintenance and replacement – are an integral part of our designs, not an inconvenient afterthought. As well as ventilation and fire, our design team includes experts in signaling, lighting, electricity, telephony, drainage and MEP.

Ground movements and building impacts

Ground movements and building impacts

Our geotechnical expertise and powerful in-house software tools deliver rigorous settlement analysis, as well as impact assessments for existing buildings and utilities infrastructure, to assure safe and efficient construction.

Find out more about our work on Crossrail

Designing for performance

Codes are by their nature conservative. For many projects, opting for a performance- rather than code-based approach unlocks new possibilities. Our experts sit on many of the standards committees that determine construction codes. So we are able to take the intent of a code, and bring fresh thinking on the most cost-effective and efficient ways to deliver the safety and comfort intended. The engineering judgement we bring to a specific project and its context is informed by advanced simulation tools that ground our advice in solid, reliable assumptions.

Every discipline, every tunnel type

Our team integrates every discipline involved in tunnel design. we also bring experience of every type of tunnel, giving us the objectivity to recommend the best approach.

TBM tunnels

TBM tunnels

Every segmentally-lined tunnel has its own challenges. From the smallest water conveyance tunnel to the largest vehicular and metro tunnels, we are skilled at marrying project goals with the known capabilities of tunnel boring machines. Beyond traditional calculation methods, we use advanced numerical analysis to find elegant answers to the problems created by the interaction of ground and structure.

Explore our work on the Tuen Mun-Chek Lap Kok Link

Mined tunnels

Mined tunnels

Our diverse global team of mined tunnelling experts takes projects from concept, detailed design and construction right through to end-of-life and reuse. Their experience spans railway and metro tunnels to the complex deep cavern networks of mining and sewerage storage.

As well as understanding practical construction issues, we use our own in-house mined tunnel optimiser tools and BIM to create a single source of truth for everyone involved in these complex projects.

Rock caverns

Rock caverns/mining tunnels

Rock mechanics – understanding the characteristics and behaviour of rock masses and the support systems necessary to efficiently support them - is a science in its own right. We apply that science to ambitious and complex projects in transportation, energy, science and mining. Our team uses advanced modelling tools to accurately determine the response of different rock types to external forces, enabling us to design safe, efficient and cost-effective excavation plans.

Discover our work on the Long Baseline Neutrino Facility

Trenchless tunnels

Trenchless tunnels

From traditional microtunnels to the complexities of trenchless tunnels for critical infrastructure, we provide highly-specialised services around pipe-jacking for long or curved alignments and for longer Horizontal Directional Drilling (HDD). We deliver concept, detailed design and site assurance skills to de-risk microtunnels for projects from Carbon Capture & Underground Storage, hydrogen networks and windfarm cable landfalls to water and waste water infrastructure and interconnector landfalls.

Find out more about our work on the London Power Tunnels Programme

Immersed tunnels

Immersed tunnels

We plan, design and oversee some of the world’s most complex immersed tunnel projects. Our approach of Total Tunnel Design allows us to integrate the many interrelated aspects of tunnels in this challenging environment; from environmental management, dredging, foundation and protection works to structure/joints and MEP services.

Explore our work on the Fehmarnbelt fixed link

Cut-and-cover tunnel

Cut and cover

We combine our structural and geotechnical expertise to create efficient cut-and-cover tunnel designs for a wide range of subsurface structure, including stations and portals. Where possible, we integrate the initial support system with the permanent structure.

Want to know more about our work?

Explore all of our tunnelling projects

Talk to our experts

We have tunnelling experts located around the world who can help you (needs refining)