An undersea tunnel is a tunnel which is partly or wholly constructed under a body of water. They are often used where building a bridge or operating a ferry link is impossible, or to provide competition (or relief) for existing bridges or ferry links. There are many reasons for building an undersea tunnel as opposed to the construction of a bridge or establishment of a ferry link.
Compared to bridges
One such advantage would be that a tunnel would still allow shipping to pass. A low bridge would need to be an opening or swing bridge to allow shipping to pass, which can cause traffic congestion. Conversely, a higher bridge that does allow shipping may be unsightly and opposed by the public. Bridges can also be closed due to harsh weather such as high winds. Another possible advantage is space: the downward ramp leading to a tunnel leaves a smaller footprint compared to the upward ramps required by most bridges.
Tunneling will generate soil that has been excavated and this can be used to create new land, as was done with the soil of the Channel Tunnel.
- Further information: Tunnel –Choice of tunnels vs. bridges
As with bridges, albeit with more chance, ferry links will also be closed during adverse weather. Strong winds, or the tidal limits may also affect the workings of a ferry crossing. Travelling through a tunnel is significantly quicker than travelling using a ferry link, shown by the times for travelling through the Channel Tunnel (75–90 minutes for Ferry and 21 minutes on the Eurostar).
Compared to bridges
Tunnels require far higher costs of security and construction than bridges. This may mean that over short distances bridges may be preferred rather than tunnels (for example Dartford Crossing). As stated earlier, bridges may not allow shipping to pass, so solutions such as the Øresund Bridge have been constructed.
As with bridges, ferry links are far cheaper to construct than tunnels, but not to operate.
List of notable examples
- Thames Tunnel The oldest underwater tunnel in the world. (0.4km) (1825 - 1843).
- Severn Tunnel One of the oldest underwater tunnels in the world (3.62 km) (1873 - 1886).
- Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel (23 miles (37 km)), connecting Virginia Beach with the Eastern Shore of Virginia (1960 - 1964).
- Cross Harbour Tunnel, Hong Kong, a busy road tunnel (opened in 1972).
- New Elbe Tunnel, Hamburg, Germany, 8-lane road tunnel crossing the Elbe river (1968 - 1975).
- Vardø Tunnel (2.9 km), connecting the small island community of Vardø in northern Norway to the mainland (1979 - 1982).
- Seikan Tunnel, world's longest undersea railway tunnel (53.9 km), when non-undersea portions of the tunnel are also measured (1971 - 1988).
- Ahmed Hamdi Tunnel (1.63 km), passes under Suez Canal connecting the Asian Sinai Peninsula to the town of Suez on the African mainland. (1981).
- Sydney Harbour Tunnel (2.8 km) (1988 - 1992).
- Busan–Geoje Fixed Link, world's deepest immersed road tunnel (48 m below mean water level) (opened in 2010).
- Channel Tunnel, world's longest undersea portion railway tunnel (37.9 km) (1988 - 1994).
- Tokyo Bay Aqua-Line, world's longest undersea portion road tunnel (9.6 km) (1988 - 1997).
- North Cape Tunnel (6.8 km), The tunnel goes under the Magerøysundet strait between the Norwegian mainland to the large island of Magerøya and the North Cape, Norway (1993 - 1999).
- Bømlafjord Tunnel, a road tunnel (7.8 km) (1997 - 2000).
- Eiksund Tunnel (7.7 km), world's deepest undersea road tunnel (opened in 2008).
- Marmaray, (1.4 km) connecting Asia and Europe (2004 - 2013).
- Marina Coastal Expressway, Singapore's first undersea tunnel (opened December 2013)
- Sullivan, Walter. Progress In Technology Revives Interest In Great Tunnels, New York Times, June 24, 1986. Retrieved 15 August 2010.
- Dover - Calais Ferry Times, Proferries.com website.
- See: Eurostar
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