FALLING TUNNELLING costs are boosting the case for a major programme of congestion busting road tunnels in the UK, according to a report published by the Automobile Association last month.
Road tunnels are the best way of solving severe congestion, pollution and road safety problems in urban areas, the report says.
It says road tunnelling has become popular worldwide and that the UK has fallen behind the rest of Europe in using road tunnels.The report cites major projects in Paris, Lyon, Marseilles, Brussels, Madrid and Sydney as recent examples.
There have been encouraging signs in the UK, with road tunnels planned at Hindhead in Surrey, Stonehenge in Wiltshire and Southwick Hill in Sussex.
But British planners 'must lift their sights' and take road tunnelling more seriously, said AA head of policy John Dawson.
The report claims tunnelling is more justifiable now because costs are falling at a rate of 4% a year. At the moment tunnels cost an average of about £50M per kilometre.
Urban tunnelling is now cheaper than surface building where acquiring land or moving utilities is expensive and public inquiries very time consuming, the AA said.
'As tunnelling costs continue to fall, there are new options to 'reconquer' degraded surface streets in our towns and cities.'
The report claims technologies for boring tunnels have made rapid advances thanks to projects such as the Channel Tunnel. New technologies for blasting tunnels have also slashed the price of rural tunnelling where the right geology exists, it added.