|South portal of the Hindhead Tunnel. October 2012|
|Location||Hindhead, Surrey, UK|
|Work begun||January 2007|
|Opened||29 July 2011|
|Length||1,830 m (1.14 mi; 6,000 ft)|
|Number of lanes||Two in each tunnel|
Speed limit: 70 mph (113 km/h)
The Hindhead Tunnel, opened in 2011, is part of the 6.5 km (4.0 miles) dual-carriageway Hindhead bypass that replaced the last remaining stretch of single-carriageway on the 68-mile (109 km) A3, the London to Portsmouth road. The bypass was constructed to improve road safety, reduce congestion and improve air quality. At 1,830 metres (1.14 miles; 6,000 feet) in length, the tunnel is the longest non-estuarial road tunnel in the United Kingdom, and takes the road beneath the Devil's Punch Bowl, a Site of Special Scientific Interest.
A naval dockyard has existed in Portsmouth since at least Tudor times, giving significant importance to the road linking that city with London. The original 73-mile (117 km)  route skirted the north-western limits of The Weald climbing to the summit of Gibbet Hill close to Hindhead. In 1826 the road, which in the 1920s was designated as the A3, was rebuilt around the Devil's Punch Bowl to ensure that the gradient was no more than 5%.
By the start of the new millennium most of the A3 had been dualled; only the section that passed through Hindhead and the Devil's Punch Bowl was still single carriageway. This section, which passed through an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), operated at or above capacity for much of the day and had an accident rate 40% higher than the national average for that class of road.
By 2000 the A3 had been built to dual carriageway standards for its entire length apart from the 5.5 km (3.4 miles) Hindhead section. The termini of the northern and southern sections of dual carriageway were at altitudes of 180 m (590 ft) and 190 m (620 ft) above sea level respectively and the single carriageway linking them followed a winding route around the Devil's Punch Bowl, reaching an altitude of 260 m (850 ft). The Hindhead Tunnel project shortened the route by about 300 m (980 ft) and routed the road through a tunnel whose northern and southern portals are at altitudes of 190 m (620 ft) and 200 m (660 ft) above sea level respectively.
Assessment of proposals
The need for improvements to the A3 through Hindhead had been recognised for many years with a route study being undertaken between 1970 and 1976. In 1983 some nine alternatives for the A3 were investigated by the Department for Transport, but assessment showed that only one which went around the north and west side of the Punch Bowl (the "Red Route"), crossing the Smallbrook Valley was viable. A public consultation on the route met with opposition and two alternatives were suggested both of which drew less support than the proposed route which in 1988 became the preferred route. Subsequent environmental surveys showed that this route would have substantial adverse impacts resulting in the proposal to adapt an earlier scheme by including a tunnel to avoid the most sensitive parts of the route. The scheme entered the Government’s targeted programme of improvements in 2001.
A public inquiry was held in September 2004 to hear objections and to consider alternatives to the proposal. Among the alternative proposals was one for a surface route following a more westerly line that would avoid building a tunnel (an adaptation of the "Red Route"). Despite being significantly more expensive than building a surface road, a tunnel was preferred after two alternative surface schemes were rejected on environmental grounds. The decision to put part of the road in a tunnel pushed the cost of the project to £371 million, with the underground section costing £155,000 per metre (£142,000 per yard) making that section of road the second most expensive road in the UK per unit distance, after the Limehouse Link tunnel.
The Hindhead tunnel runs through a sequence of fine grained strata of the Lower Greensand Group that were laid over Wealden Clay during (part of the Wealden Group) during the Lower Cretaceous period (70 - 140 million years ago) on the margins of the subsiding Weald Basin. The Greensand group consists of the Hythe Beds, which overlay a 10 to 20 m (33 to 66 ft) layer of Atherfield Clay. The Hythe beds themselves, which host the tunnel, consist of the Upper Hythe bed, which has a four substrata identified by the letters "A" to "D", and the Lower Hythe bed, which has two strata which are identified by the letters "A" and "B". Originally that whole area was covered by the Burgate Beds, but when the Weald was uplifted, the Burgate Beds were eroded away.
Most of the tunnel passes through the Upper Hythe C and D layers and the Lower Hythe A layer which are described as "Weak, locally very weak to moderately strong, slightly clayey fine to medium sandstone with occasional thin beds of clayey/silty fine sand" and typically has Uniaxial Compressive Strength (UCS) values of 2–5 MPa. The rock is heavily fractured and has mean fracture centres varying from 190 to 815 mm (7.5 to 32.1 inches). The southern end of the tunnel however passes through the "less competent" Upper Hythe A and B layers which are described as "medium dense thinly bedded and thinly laminated, clean to silty and clayey fine and medium sand with subordinate weak to strong sandstone, cherty sandstone and chert". Most of the tunnel is above the predicted water table.
Access and the old A3 road
|Hindhead tunnel project|
Access to the new section of road from the north is via the original A3 with access to the old A3 being provided from the Thursley Junction, completed in 2005, about one kilometre beyond the northern limit of the Hindhead Tunnel works. The new road can be accessed from the south using the original A3 with new access points being provided by new junctions at Hazel Grove.
After the construction was completed, the section of the old A3 from the A287 intersection in Hindhead southwards was renamed the A333, the 250 m (820 ft) section from the intersection northwards up to the National Trust car park has been retained, and the section that follows the Devil's Punch Bowl contour has been returned to nature. The remainder of the old A3 was either converted to a cycle track/bridlepath or is being used as a local road.
In order to meet the predicted traffic capacity, each tunnel required a 7.3 metres (24 ft) wide carriageway with a 5.03 m (16.5 ft) high traffic gauge and 1.2 m (3 ft 11 in) wide verges on either side. In addition a 250 mm (9.8 inches) area had to be left above the traffic gauge to protect overhead equipment from loose ropes, tarpaulins and the like.
The tunnel was excavated using mechanical diggers rather than a tunnel boring machine (TBM) as the TBM would only have been cheaper if tunnel was longer than 2.5 km (1.6 miles). As a result the excavated part of the tunnel was horse-shoe in shape rather than circular, and the amount of spoil removed was 20% less than would have been the case had a TBM been used. Each tunnel has an approximate excavated diameter of 11.6 m (38 ft). A 200 mm (8 inches) shotcrete primary lining provided the initial support for the tunnel. At the southern end, where tunneling passed through the Lower Hythe sands, the primary lining was supplemented with 4 m (13 ft) "pins" to provide more support.
Emergency interconnecting cross passages are located at intervals of 100 m (330 ft) to facilitate movement of pedestrians between tunnels in case of emergency.
Ancillary works include a deep cutting to the south of the tunnel with a new junction for Hindhead and Hammer at its southern end. An equestrian and pedestrian bridge, the Miss James Bridge, crosses the cutting between tunnel and junction, and includes heathland planting to link the habitats on either side of the cutting.
A visitor information leaflet distributed at the walkthrough listed the following facts about the tunnel work:
- 737,000 cubic metres (26,000,000 cu ft) of earth was excavated during the tunnel's construction
- The fuel consumption rate of the excavators was 2,400 litres (530 imp gal; 630 US gal) of low-sulphur diesel per day
- Digging the tunnel took 290,875 person-hours
- 289,460 cubic metres (10,222,000 cu ft) of concrete were made
- 1,399,034 person-hours were worked without an accident
- The tunnel contains 251 km (156 mi) of cable
- The tunnel lights are twice as bright as the ones at the Old Trafford stadium
- The tunnel has 104 CCTV cameras
- The fire main tank can hold 380,000 litres (84,000 imp gal; 100,000 US gal) of water
- 4,322 people worked on the project
Construction and opening
Advance works started in January 2007, and main construction works, including the tunnelling, started in 2008.
Excavation work from the north portal began on 1 February 2008. Two Liebherr diggers were employed, one on each tunnel with work being carried out around the clock, seven days a week. Work from the south portal began on 14 May using a single Liebherr digger to dig both tunnels. Since the south portal was close to housing, work was restricted to a single shift five days a week. The poorer ground at the southern end of the tunnel also slowed progress. The primary linings were sprayed onto the tunnel with the spraying operation following the excavation operation by about two metres when digging through sandstone and about one metre when digging through sand. Breakthrough was achieved on both tunnels on 26 February 2009, 250 m from the south portal. The extraction rate for the southern portion was 1.2 m/day and for the northern portion 3.9 m/day.[Note 1]
Prior to breakthrough, only the part of the tunnel - the semicircular cross-section above the bench - was excavated. Excavation of the bench in the southbound tunnel began on 9 July 2008. This work progressed much quicker than the initial excavation work as several faces could be opened up at once. Again, the primary linings were sprayed onto to workings as digging progressed. The excavation and primary linings were completed on 31 March 2009 with a total of 737,000 cubic metres of spoil having been excavated.
The application of the waterproof membrane and the installation of the secondary lining only started once all the excavation and primary lining were complete. The waterproof membrane was sprayed onto the primary lining and the pre-cast invert and side section installed. Spraying of the secondary lining onto the crown of the tunnel was scheduled as part of the finalisation of the excavation works.
On Sunday, 14 May 2011, one and a half months before the tunnel was due to open the contractors staged an open day when 7,000 pedestrians were able to walk the full length of the tunnel while local music groups performed at the north end of the tunnel. These included the Haslemere Town Band, who performed the "Devil's Punch Bowl March" as the first VIPs emerged from the tunnel. This had been composed especially for the occasion by 16-year-old Band member, Eric Foster. The opening ceremony itself, to which the public was not invited for safety reasons, was performed by the Secretary of State for Transport Philip Hammond on 29 July 2011.
Serious accidents in the Mont Blanc Tunnel and the Gotthard Road Tunnel in 1999 and 2001 respectively resulting in the closures of these tunnels led to a re-evaluation of road tunnel safety throughout Europe. An EU directive passed in 2004 laid down the minimum safety requirements for road tunnels within the EU and EFTA that exceed 500 m in length and that are part of the Trans-European Road Network (TEN). Although the Hindhead tunnel is more than 500 m in length, it does not carry part of the TEN road network so legally does not need to comply with the directive.
The tunnel approaches have cross-over systems that enable the police to direct all traffic through one of the tunnels should the other be closed as a result of an incident or for maintenance. Due to part of the original A3 having been returned to nature, it is not possible to use the old road in an emergency. However the South East of England has a comprehensive road network, and redirection of traffic from the A3 to the M3 would increase the Kingston to Portsmouth journey from 65 miles (105 km) to 89 miles (143 km).
Cross-connection tunnels have been constructed at 100 metre intervals to allow for emergency evacuation to the other tunnel should there be an incident. Although the EU directive requires laybys at intervals not exceeding 1000 metres for TEN-T tunnels that do not have emergency lanes, the Hindhead tunnel does not have any laybys, but it does have 1.2 m verges on either side of the carriageway. The tunnel has two power supplies, one via the north portal and the other via the south portal, each backing the other up in the event of failure. Ventilation is provided by fans mounted above the traffic, though in normal circumstances they will not be operational.
Electronic equipment includes linear heat detectors, radar coverage and 104 CCTV cameras that can pinpoint incidents, intelligent lighting and LED cat's eyes and comprehensive fire-fighting systems.
According to reports in September 2011, the tunnel was being used by "wealthy young drivers" in powerful sportscars to perform time trials. They state that cars such as Lamborghinis, Ferraris and Aston Martins are regularly seen using the tunnel as a racetrack at night. The average speed of vehicles travelling through the tunnels is now monitored by SPECS speed cameras.
From the outset a tunnel was built rather than a cutting being dug to avoid spoiling an area of outstanding natural beauty and a Site of Special Scientific Interest, much of which is owned by the National Trust. Before digging started an environmental survey was carried out. Common lizards, adders and slow-worms found at Boundless Valley were relocated to National Trust land at Highcombe Edge while grass snakes were taken to Hurthill Copse.
Tree felling was scheduled to minimise disruption to nesting birds and to other wild-life and in certain instances, animals such as dormice were removed to similar habitats elsewhere. After the works were completed, 200,000 trees were planted on the route of the old road. The restoration of the old road to nature removed a barrier that prevented the migration of ground-nesting birds, such as woodlarks and nightjars from one part of the nature reserve to the other.
Among the artefacts found was an old milestone that was discarded during the rebuilding of the road in 1826. The 1811 Ordnance Survey map was used to identify the original position of the stone where it has since been re-erected. The pre-1826 road is now a pedestrian way to Gibbet Hill. Other artefacts of archaeological interest included two lime kilns found near the Thursley side of the works dating from the 18th or 19th centuries. It is probable that lime produced by the kilns came from Petersfield 25 kilometres (16 mi) away and would have been used to counteract the acid nature of the soil.
The main contractors received the Preservation Award at the 2011 Tunnels and Tunnelling Awards ceremony.
- The figures assumed that work was carried out for seven days a week on the northern section and five days a week on the southern section of the tunnel.
- Gray, Alan; Watson, John (24 August 2005). "Report to the First Secretary of State and the Secretaries of State for Transport and for Environment Food and Rural Affairs; File Reference: HA/061/002/0002". The Planning Inspectorate. Retrieved 6 August 2011.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Hindhead Tunnel.|
- Highways Agency project information
- The News (Portsmouth) – virtual experience of driving through the Hindhead Tunnel
- "Inside UK's largest tunnel dig". BBC News. 21 August 2008. Retrieved 21 August 2008.