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Tunnel design

Tunnels provide the means for vital connections between locations and communities, while minimising the impact on the surface environment.


A cost-effective and sustainable underground strategy can be found for moving people, freight and all the vital power and water utilities needed to keep modern and developing societies functioning.

Integrated design

Arup's approach to tunnel projects embraces all that is best in truly multidisciplinary and joined-up design. A holistic approach, based on a strong core team of experienced tunnellers, drawing on the capabilities of a wide array of allied disciplines, allows Arup to provide 'tunnelling plus' advice.

From life safety and tunnel ventilation to materials technology and lifecycle cost analysis, Arup's tunnel projects extend from inception to operation and beyond. This total design approach, using committed specialists working closely together, has produced exciting and innovative answers to some of the world's largest and most complex tunnel projects. These challenges are welcome, giving the firm the opportunity to implement integrated projects of real value to clients.

From community to international travel

Two current and recent projects illustrate Arup's work on tunnels and their consequent benefits to communities, travel, the environment and city design.

Arup is leading the contractor's engineering design for the design and construct contract for a vital new intake tunnel at Lake Mead, Nevada that will safeguard future water quality and supply for the city of Las Vegas. Not only does the tunnel pass through extremely challenging ground and groundwater conditions, it also requires the expertise of Arup's materials and hydraulics specialists to design the tunnel's deep water lake intake. The project design team's cost-effective work will significantly reduce construction time and risk, a vital consideration for the contractor client and project promoter.

With 26km of tunnels forming 25% of the total High Speed 1 route, linking London to the Channel Tunnel, Arup has been influential in the project from its inception. Through bored and cut and cover tunnels in urban and rural environments, 19km of tunnels have been driven beneath north and east London, with a further 3km beneath the River Thames. This work has drawn on the widest possible range of skills from within the firm and has achieved an 'on time, on budget' result that is truly world-class.

Sustainability in a changing world

The rapid growth of city populations has placed increasing pressure on infrastructure systems. There is a growing recognition that going underground is the right thing to do. From subway systems that take cars off the street to aqueduct and power tunnels that provide the necessities of life, tunnels and underground space offer sustainable and cost-effective alternatives. Arup has been at the forefront of the development of larger and more complex underground spaces in response to the demand for more cost-effective uses for them.

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Global contact

  • Jon Hurt
  • Global Tunnel Design Leader
  • Hannes Lagger

    Hannes Lagger

    Associate Director | Tunnel Design

    Your best solution to date?

    A tunnel through an active earthquake fault. We developed a tunnel that can displace up to 3m before any damage occurs to the water pipe inside.

    Why is it significant?

    The solution guarantees that water will flow through the tunnel even after a massive earthquake occurs. It shows the importance of our work, we are directly influencing people’s lives.

    Your particular skill?

    Creative tunnel design. Working as a team with contractors and colleagues to make things happen.

    Enthusiasm?

    Helping young tunnel engineers to grow and develop.

    Why Arup?

    Because you never know what’s going to happen the next day, Arup is a dynamic and fun firm to work in. The talent, variety of cultures and dynamism is breathtaking and creates a wonderful work environment which is unique in consulting.

  • t: +34 (0) 91 523 9276
  • e: tunnel-design@arup.com
  • Madrid [07:20]
  • Matt Sykes

    Matt Sykes

    Matt Sykes - headshot. Copyright Arup.

    UKMEA Leader for Tunnel Design Tunnel design, Director

    Your best solution to date?

    Leading a complex “total solution” for a recent major highway tunnel tender.

    Why is it significant?

    It brought out what is best in Arup. It is amazing what can be delivered with a small group of enthusiastic engineers who challenge themselves to constantly improve a solution.

    Your particular skill?

    Assembling the design “jigsaw” for tunnels to make the end product the best it can be

    Enthusiasm?

    Every job challenging, every job different, same enthusiasm.

    Why Arup?

    Arup actively encourages the pursuit of new ideas, opportunities and solutions. This dynamism makes it such a rewarding place to work.

  • t: +44 (0) 20 7636 1531
  • e: tunnel-design@arup.com
  • London [06:20]

Explore our work


Lake Mead Intake Tunnel No.3

Project: Lake Mead Intake Tunnel No. 3

New tunnel to safeguard water quality and supply amid declining lake water levels.

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High Speed 1. Credit Daniel Clements.

Project: High Speed 1

High Speed 1 puts London and Paris in the 'two-hour club' of major cities.

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Hong Kong West Drainage Tunnels, view along a tunnel.

Project: Hong Kong West Drainage Tunnel

Relieving flood risk in a low-lying urban area.

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Second Avenue Subway

Project: Second Avenue Subway

A new line for reduced overcrowding, delays and greater accessiblity.

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Proposed design for Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge, bird's eye view. Credit HPDI/Cowi/Shanghai Tunnel/First Harbour Engineering.

Project: Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge

The first major combined bridge and tunnel sea-crossing project in China.

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