(All images by Abandoned Scotland; Clyde Tunnel pedestrian passage and cycleways)
Serving an estimated 65,000 vehicles each day, the Clyde Tunnel in Glasgow is a major artery linking Whiteinch, on the north side of the River Clyde, and Govan to the south. But despite (as Abandoned Scotland points out) most people in western Scotland passing through the 2,500 ft subterranean freeway at some point in their lifetimes, many remain unaware of the lesser-known pedestrian and bike tunnels that lie beneath the main carriageways.
Unlike various other tunnels built beneath the booming cities of the British Empire, the Clyde Tunnel came later, designed after World War Two specifically to embrace the modern car and motorway system. Crossing the Clyde presented a problem for the emerging road network due to its busy shipping lanes, and the decision to tunnel beneath the river was granted in 1948.
Due to financial problems, construction of the Clyde Tunnel – which was designed by civil engineer Sir Alan Marshall Muir Wood and built using Marc Isambard Brunel’s tunnelling shield – didn’t begin until 1957. Two circular tunnels (for northbound and southbound traffic) were mined amid challenging geological conditions, with a road deck positioned a third of the way up their interior.
It was under those road decks that the pedestrian and cycle tunnels were installed, along with a series of ventilation ducts. The northbound tunnel was eventually opened by Queen Elizabeth II on July 3, 1963. The southbound carriageway of the £10 million Clyde Tunnel development followed nine months later, in March 1964.
Over the years, holding one’s breath became a popular game among children and adults alike as they passed beneath the River Clyde. It takes 57 seconds to drive through the Clyde Tunnel at 30 mph, or 42 seconds when traffic flows at 40 mph, though traffic jams at the north-side interchange have scuppered many an attempt at the breath-holding game.
We’re unsure how long it takes a cyclist or pedestrian to get through the Clyde Tunnel, though it seems likely these groups may hold their breath for different reasons. As with their motorised counterparts, both tunnels remain open to cyclists and pedestrians in both directions, and have been monitored by CCTV since 2008 in a bid to curb crime.
Abandoned Scotland reports that the Clyde Tunnel’s pedestrian and cycleways have been given over to street artists in more recent years. According to the site: “Back in 2005/2006 the pedestrian tunnels were closed separately to allow for them to be given a more artistic feel. Such things as lights within were given different colours and there was also supposed to be music playing, however this has long stopped.”
Perhaps not surprisingly, the graffiti is concentrated near the tunnel portals, where a subterranean walkway connects the two tunnels and allows engineers access to the vehicle carriageways. But at the deepest point in the Clyde Tunnel’s centre core, this street art thins out considerably.
Of course, the Clyde Tunnel isn’t Glasgow’s only subterranean river crossing. Two Victorian rotundas to the east mark the location of the now-defunct Glasgow Harbour Tunnel, where an abandoned pedestrian tunnel still lies eerily silent beneath the Clyde. Nowadays its used only by engineers accessing water mains, while the rotundas themselves have been adapted for other uses.
Read next: Browse a series of abandoned places in Glasgow.