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CSIC's Smart Tunnel is featured in the Cambridge News

last modified Mar 20, 2014 02:01 PM
How pioneering work from Cambridge University engineers will change our understanding of the London Underground
CSIC's Smart Tunnel is featured in the Cambridge News

Chris Elliott - Cambridge News


Engineers from Cambridge University are burrowing away deep beneath the streets of London – in a pioneering drive to find better ways of digging tunnels and making them safer.

Researchers from the Cambridge Centre for Smart Infrastructure and Construction (CSIC), part of the university’s engineering department, have taken over a 30-metre disused stretch of the Post Office Tunnel, and have packed it with high-tech measuring instruments.

The cast iron tunnel is 100 years old and below it, another giant tunnel is being excavated, part of the Crossrail scheme.

For the past nine months, a team of Cambridge PhD students and researchers have been installing monitoring devices in the older tunnel, aimed at recording its stress levels, and checking out what effect the big new Crossrail excavation, which began in December, will have on it.

The project is another first for Cambridge – using technology to tap in to the behaviour of a tunnel has never been done before in this way.

The Crossrail project is a £14.8 billion scheme to improve the capital’s transport system, with new tunnels and new stations.

Dr Jennifer Schooling, director of the Cambridge centre, said the idea was to create a “smart tunnel, capable of monitoring stress levels in real time and seeing how they change during excavation”.

She said: “The start of Crossrail’s gigantic 12-metre diameter tunnel directly beneath our smart tunnel is not only incredibly exciting for our team, 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.

“Nearly three-quarters of London’s ageing, Victorian underground tunnels are made of cast iron.

“It’s about efficiency as well as safety, and improving our under-standing of how infrastructure performs. The fact that we’ve been able to get access to a disused section of tunnel means we can use lots of different sensors to record how that tunnel behaves.”

The scheme is being paid for by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and the Technology Strategy Board, and is part of a five-year research programme by CSIC, which has secured additional funding from a number of private companies.

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