Department of Engineering / News / The Making of a Smart Tunnel: measuring tunnelling history for the first time

Department of Engineering

The Making of a Smart Tunnel: measuring tunnelling history for the first time

The Making of a Smart Tunnel: measuring tunnelling history for the first time

Smart tunnel complete with CSIC monitoring devices

The Cambridge Centre for Smart Infrastructure and Construction (CSIC)'s instrumentation is set to demonstrate the behaviour of a cast iron tunnel to a scale that has never been done before using ground breaking technologies.

It is the first time so many of our revolutionary devices have been used to monitor the movement of an existing tunnel. It will also mean that we will see what effect such a large-scale excavation will have on a cast iron tunnel for the first time, almost in real time.

Dr Jennifer Schooling, CSIC’s Director

CSIC, an innovation and knowledge centre funded by EPSRC and the Technology Strategy Board to develop and commercialise emerging technologies, are beginning to see the fruits of their labour with a number of innovative research and development projects underway. For the past nine months, CSIC’s team of PhD students and researchers have been installing innovative monitoring devices in a 30 metre stretch of a 100-year-old, disused tunnel, deep in London’s underground – transforming it into a 'smart tunnel', capable of monitoring stress levels in real time and seeing how they change during excavation.

In December Crossrail started excavating its gigantic 12m diameter tunnel directly beneath CSIC’s 'smart tunnel'.

“This is not only incredibly exciting for the CSIC team,” remarked Dr Jennifer Schooling, CSIC’s Director, “it is also a first on a number of counts. It is the first time so many of our revolutionary devices have been used to monitor the movement of an existing tunnel. It will also mean that we will see what effect such a large-scale excavation will have on a cast iron tunnel for the first time, almost in real time.”

Seventy percent of London’s ageing, Victorian underground tunnels are made of cast iron. Using such instrumentation is an efficient and economical way of monitoring miles of tunnels such as those in London. This project will use ground-breaking technologies to show the behaviour of cast iron tunnels to a scale that has never been done before and give information on how further technologies like the ones used by CSIC can be used in other similar tunnels.