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A tunnel is an underground passageway, dug through the surrounding soil/earth/rock and

enclosed except for entrance and exit, commonly at each end. A pipeline is not a tunnel, though
some recent tunnels have used immersed tube construction techniques rather than traditional
tunnel boring methods.

A tunnel may be for foot or vehicular road traffic, for rail traffic, or for a canal. The central portions
of a rapid transit network are usually in tunnel. Some tunnels are aqueducts to supply water for
consumption or for hydroelectric stations or are sewers. Utility tunnels are used for routing steam,
chilled water, electrical power or telecommunication cables, as well as connecting buildings for
convenient passage of people and equipment.

Secret tunnels are built for military purposes, or by civilians for smuggling of weapons,
contraband, or people. Special tunnels, such as wildlife crossings, are built to allow wildlife to cross
human-made barriers safely. Tunnels can be connected together in tunnel networks.

A tunnel is relatively long and narrow; the length is often much greater than twice the diameter,
although similar shorter excavations can be constructed, such as cross passages between tunnels.

The definition of what constitutes a tunnel can vary widely from source to source. For example,
the definition of a road tunnel in the United Kingdom is defined as "a subsurface highway
structure enclosed for a length of 150 metres (490 ft) or more."[1] In the United States, the NFPA
definition of a tunnel is "An underground structure with a design length greater than 23 m (75 ft)
and a diameter greater than 1,800 millimetres (5.9 ft)."[2]

In the UK, a pedestrian, cycle or animal tunnel beneath a road or railway is called a subway, while
an underground railway system is differently named in different cities, the "Underground" or the
"Tube" in London, the "Subway" in Glasgow, and the "Metro" in Newcastle. The place where a
road, railway, canal or watercourse passes under a footpath, cycleway, or another road or railway
is most commonly called a bridge or, if passing under a canal, an aqueduct. Where it is important
to stress that it is passing underneath, it may be called an underpass, though the official term
when passing under a railway is an underbridge. A longer underpass containing a road, canal or
railway is normally called a "tunnel", whether or not it passes under another item of
infrastructure. An underpass of any length under a river is also usually called a "tunnel", whatever
mode of transport it is for.

In the US, the term "subway" means an underground rapid transit system, and the term
pedestrian underpass is used for a passage beneath a barrier. Rail station platforms may be
connected by pedestrian tunnels or footbridges.

Much of the early technology of tunneling evolved from mining and military engineering. The
etymology of the terms "mining" (for mineral extraction or for siege attacks), "military
engineering", and "civil engineering" reveals these deep historic connections.

Predecessors of modern tunnels were adits to transport water for irrigation or drinking, and
sewerage. The first Qanats are known from before 2000 B.C.
Tunnels are dug in types of materials varying from soft clay to hard rock. The method of tunnel
construction depends on such factors as the ground conditions, the ground water conditions, the
length and diameter of the tunnel drive, the depth of the tunnel, the logistics of supporting the
tunnel excavation, the final use and shape of the tunnel and appropriate risk management.

There are three basic types of tunnel construction in common use. Cut-and-cover tunnels are
constructed in a shallow trench and then covered over. Bored tunnels are constructed in situ,
without removing the ground above. Finally a tube can be sunk into a body of water, which is
called an immersed tunnel.