Tunnels underneath the River Thames

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The table below lists many of the tunnels under the River Thames in and near London, which, thanks largely to its underlying bed of clay, is one of the most tunnelled cities in the world. The tunnels are used for road vehicles, pedestrians, Tube and railway lines and utilities. Several tunnels are over a century old: the original Thames Tunnel was the world's first underwater tunnel.

East (Downstream) to West (Upstream) Name Type Between... Construction Year Comments
1 High Speed 1 Twin Rail Tunnels SwanscombeKentWest ThurrockEssex 2007
2 Dartford Tunnel Twin Road Tunnels 1963 West Tunnel - 1963, East Tunnel - 1980
3 Dartford Cable Tunnel Utilities 2004
4 Docklands Light Railway Tunnels Rail Woolwich ArsenalKing George V 2009
5 Woolwich foot tunnel Foot WoolwichNorth Woolwich 1912
6 Jubilee line Tunnels Rail North GreenwichCanning Town 1999
7 Blackwall Tunnels Road North GreenwichBlackwall 1897 Second bore in 1967. Alexander Binnie
8 Jubilee line Tunnels Rail Canary WharfNorth Greenwich 1999
9 Docklands Light Railway Tunnels Rail Island GardensCutty Sark 1999
10 Greenwich Foot Tunnel Foot MillwallGreenwich 1902 Alexander Binnie
11 Jubilee line Tunnels Rail Canada WaterCanary Wharf 1999
12 Rotherhithe Tunnel Road RotherhitheLimehouse 1908 Maurice Fitzmaurice
13 Thames Tunnel Rail WappingRotherhithe 1843 Marc Brunel. The world's first underwater tunnel, now part of the Overground network. Originally a foot tunnel.
14 Tower Subway Utilities 1870 Peter W. Barlow and James Henry Greathead. The world's first underground tube railway. Initially a rail tunnel, then a foot tunnel. Currently carries pipes and fibre-optic lines.
15 Northern line Tunnels (City Branch) Rail Borough tube stationBank 1900
16 City and South London Railway Tunnels Disused Borough tube stationKing William Street 1890 Originally rail tunnels, now disused. The world's first electric tube railway, with tunnels only 10 feet 2 inches (3.10 m) in diameter, became disused in 1900 when new 11 feet 6 inches (3.51 m) tunnels to the east replaced them
17 Waterloo & City line Tunnels Rail 1898
18 Northern line Tunnels (Charing Cross Branch) Rail 1926
19 Bakerloo line Tunnels Rail 1906
20 Jubilee line Tunnels Rail WestminsterWaterloo 1999
21 Victoria line Tunnels Rail 1971
22 Battersea Power Station Tunnels Utility unknown 2 tunnels run under the Thames from the station and arrive on either side of Chelsea Bridge. A third tunnel used to carry steam under the Thames to the Churchill Gardens estate.

Other tunnels[edit]

The figure and list above leave out at least three tunnels: under the Thames Barrier; the 2.8m diameter tunnel carrying electricity cables from West Ham to the Greenwich Peninsula constructed up to 1999 for the Millennium Dome; and a tunnel to the site of the old Ferranti power station on the east side of the mouth of Deptford Creek.

There is also a tunnel between Cottons centre and the old Billingsgate Fish Market near to London Bridge. Citibank used it for cabling at one point; it was large enough for a man to walk through.

The Crossrail project, authorised in 2008, will see a further pair of rail tunnels constructed between North Woolwich and Woolwich. The first Crossrail trains are due to run in 2017.

The Silvertown Tunnel is a new Thames river crossing proposed to supplement the existing Blackwall Tunnel, which will join the Greenwich Peninsula with West Silvertown.

There is also a further tunnel about two miles east of Gravesend for electricity cables presumably only accessible by authorized personnel


London's abundance of river tunnels has resulted from a number of factors. For historical reasons, the city centre has relatively few railway bridges (or for that matter main-line railway stations). Only three railway bridges exist in central London, only one of which provides through services across the capital. Consequently, railway builders have had to tunnel under the river in the city centre rather than bridge it. By contrast, railway bridges are relatively common to the west of the inner city.

Another historical factor has been the presence of the Port of London, which until the 1980s required large ships to be able to access the river as far upstream as the City of London. Until the construction of the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge in 1991, the easternmost bridge on the Thames was Tower Bridge in central London. Even now, the Dartford Crossing provides the only way to cross the Thames by road between London and the sea (with predictable results for traffic congestion). The width of the river downstream meant that tunnels were the only options for crossings before improvements in technology allowed the construction of high bridges such as the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge at Dartford.

See also[edit]