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The Clyde Tunnel


Key Facts and Figures

Last Updated: 29th Aug 2015    

The Clyde Tunnel - History and Construction

Before the tunnel was constructed and completed in the early 1960s, the need for an additional road crossing in Glasgow has long been recognised. Long before The Highway Plan made print, the route this crossing would take was recommended by Robert Bruce who submitted his report to the corporation of Glasgow in 1946. Forming part of an outer ring road for the city it would serve as a rapid and efficient means of connecting the districts of Linthouse on the south bank and Whiteinch on the north bank. A tunnel was chosen over a bridge to provide minimal disruption to shipping that at the time was a major industry on the banks of the River Clyde.


Construction commenced after the inaugural ceremony which took place on the 26th of June 1957. Work began on creating two separate tunnel bores with total lengths of 2500 ft (726 meters). The design would incorporate two lanes of traffic for each tunnel bore with a pedestrian and cycle subway beneath the road deck (see diagram below). The north and south tunnel portals were built in reinforced concrete and provide the foundations for the ventilation building which house the exhaust fans to provide air circulation throughout the length of the tunnel. The tunnels themselves are built in cast iron to an internal diameter of 29 ft (8.8 meters) which incorporates 22 ft (6.7 meters) of space for vehicular traffic. Emergency equipment such as fire alarms, internal telephones and firefighting equipment are found at every 100 yard interval inside each tunnel along a maintenance walkway.


Above the maintenance walkways at the sides of the carriageways the tunnels have an internal cladding to conceal the cast iron segments and prevent local seepage water from falling onto the road. A framework of aluminium alloy supporting members was first fixed in front of the cast iron tunnel segments. Panels of rigid PVC sheeting were fixed to this framework up to ceiling level. A false ceiling was formed in flat self-coloured aluminium alloy ceiling panels. Above this ceiling is the exhaust duct and to improve air flow conditions the remaining section of the cast iron segments was covered by the impregnated water-resistant laminated plastic boarding.


The West tunnel (Northbound) was completed first and opened on the 3rd of July 1963 by Queen Elizabeth II. Initially this meant that the Clyde Tunnel was a single carriageway route with traffic going in both directions, north and southbound through the West Tunnel. Overtaking was of course, prohibited and indicated via a solid white line between both lanes of traffic. This situation remained until The East Tunnel (Southbound) opened the following year in March and allowed for the West Tunnel to be used for Northbound only and the new East tunnel to be used for Southbound. This marked the full completion of the tunnel contract. The main contractor was Charles Brand & Son LTD and the total cost of the project was £10 million. The main approach roads north and south of the tunnel were constructed several years later.



LOCATION:   Whiteinch to Linthouse - Glasgow

OPENING DATES: West tunnel: July 3rd 1963

                                East tunnel: March 23rd 1964  

DESIGNER: Halcrow  

CONTRACTOR: Charles Brand & Son,  

LENGTH:   2500 feet (portal to portal length)

TOTAL SCHEME COST:   £10.5 Million (£209 million in 2017)


The tunnel and its approaches were built in stages throughout the 1950s & 60s. They comprise grade separated dual carriageways and at-grade four lane single carriageways. There are many impressive structures and features.


The first section to open was the Clyde Tunnel west bore on the 3rd of July 1963, with the southern and northern approaches completed in 1967 and 1969 respectively. Sections to the north followed in the 1970s.


Details on the A739 schemes can be found below.

The Clyde Tunnel was the first modern road crossing of the River Clyde. First recommended in reports published in the 1940s, it was planned as a way or relieving traffic on the congested bridges of the city centre.


Construction began in 1957 and continued for over 6 years. Engineers on the project faced a number of complex challenges which we will describe below. The tunnel and its approach roads remain an important link across the city and carry in excess of 60,000 vehicles per day.

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Sitting in a tangle of sliproads is the unusual but clever junction that is Whiteinch Interchange. This junction connects the A739 Clyde Tunnel North Approach Road with the A814 Clydeside Expressway allowing for movements between the two routes. It also provides important local access. The interchange and its slip roads are unusual given they have only one lane in each direction - perhaps in indication that traffic flows were not expected to be as high as elsewhere. Another unusual feature is found where eastbound Expressway traffic is forced onto a shared slip road with A739 Northbound. The two have a tight merge that becomes the main carriageway. The junction features a number of tight loops, short slip roads and pedestrian underpasses in fashion with many of Glasgow’s grade-separated junctions particularly where space is at a premium.


The junction and North Approach Roads were designed by Sir William Halcrow & Partners and constructed by Balfour Beatty. Construction commenced in March 1967 and opened to traffic in April 1969 – four years before the rest of the Clydeside Expressway was constructed and connected. The contract was completed 5 months ahead of schedule. This scheme was programmed before the Expressway to provide a permanent connection to the recently completed Clyde Tunnel. When the first tunnel opened to traffic in May 1963, the junction included temporary approach roads immediately splitting off from the northern tunnel portal connecting traffic to Dumbarton Road. The slip-road exists to this day and serves as the local access for A739 northbound traffic heading to Whiteinch and Dumbarton Road.


The design of this junction created a challenge for the authors of the Highway Plan as it was a requirement that it should allow for free-flow connections between the Expressway and Clyde Tunnel whilst not encroaching on the historic Victoria Park. The Corporation also requested that the demolition of terraced houses on the east side of Balshagray Drive be avoided. Rejected ideas included plans for a 3-level stacked roundabout that would result in less land take (image below). The constructed layout was chosen as it can handle higher traffic volumes and has much less visual impact on the surrounding neighborhood. This part of the scheme cost around £2.5million.


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Clyde Tunnel - Drive through Small WMK

The Clyde Tunnel - Spring 1964