UK start-up aims to transform tunnel construction

22 July 2021

Tunnel technology start-up hyperTunnel, which says it aims to reimagine conventional tunnel-building processes, has been awarded a contract to work with Network Rail on non-disruptive tunnel construction, enlargement and repair work.

As part of the contract, hyperTunnel’s suite of repair products and services will be trialled for maintaining and improving the UK’s regional railway infrastructure – this includes around 650 tunnels which are at least 120-years-old. Project delivery has started, with Phase One of two already signed off and completion of a large-scale demonstrator due over the summer.

David Castlo, Technical Head (Mining and Tunnels) at Network Rail, said: “Our large portfolio of Victorian tunnels requires increasing levels of work to meet the needs of the railway network. However, we want to reduce the level of disruption to our passengers so we are constantly searching for new approaches to enlarge or repair tunnels that reduce the length of time a tunnel will be closed to trains.”

hyperTunnel said it is developing “radical new methods” of tunnelling. It aims to transform underground construction by building tunnels faster, with less risk, and in a more economical and environmentally-friendly way using proven technologies from other industries. These include digital twins, robotics, 3D printing and digital underground surveying, supported by AI and VR. The firm’s technologies could provide Network Rail with new methods of repairing and enlarging tunnels that involve only very minimal tunnel closures.

Patrick Lane-Nott, Director of Engineering at hyperTunnel said: “Details of our various unique methodologies are still largely under wraps, but they are suitably developed and proven to attract the attention of Network Rail.”