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||Swanscombe, Kent↔West Thurrock, Essex||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 Arsenal↔King George V||2009|
|5||Crossrail Tunnels||Rail||Woolwich ↔ North Woolwich||2015||The tunnel construction was finished in 2015, they are due to begin rail service in 2018|
|6||Woolwich foot tunnel||Foot||Woolwich↔North Woolwich||1912||Maurice Fitzmaurice|
|7||London Underground Jubilee line Tunnels||Rail||North Greenwich↔Canning Town||1999|
|8||Blackwall Tunnels||Road||North Greenwich↔Blackwall||1897||Second bore in 1967. Alexander Binnie|
|9||London Underground Jubilee line Tunnels||Rail||Canary Wharf↔North Greenwich||1999|
|10||Docklands Light Railway Tunnels||Rail||Island Gardens↔Cutty Sark||1999|
|11||Greenwich Foot Tunnel||Foot, Cycle||Millwall↔Greenwich||1902||Alexander Binnie|
|12||London Underground Jubilee line Tunnels||Rail||Canada Water↔Canary Wharf||1999|
|13||Rotherhithe Tunnel||Road||Rotherhithe↔Limehouse||1908||Maurice Fitzmaurice|
|14||Thames Tunnel||Rail||Wapping↔Rotherhithe||1843||Marc Brunel. The world's first underwater tunnel, now part of the Overground network. Originally a foot tunnel.|
|15||Tower Subway||Utilities||1870||Peter W. Barlow and James Henry Greathead. The world's first underground tube railway. A rail tunnel for 3 months only, then a foot tunnel. Currently carries pipes and fibre-optic lines.|
|16||London Underground Northern line Tunnels (City Branch)||Rail||London Bridge station↔Bank||1900|
|17||City and South London Railway Tunnels||Disused||Borough↔King 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|
|18||London Underground Waterloo & City line Tunnels||Rail||1898|
|19||London Underground Northern line Tunnels (Charing Cross Branch)||Rail||1926|
|20||London Underground Bakerloo line Tunnels||Rail||1906|
|21||London Underground Jubilee line Tunnels||Rail||Westminster↔Waterloo||1999|
|22||London Underground Victoria line Tunnels||Rail||1971|
|23||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.|
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 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.