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Total immersion

Working lives - Although there are a number of immersed tube tunnels in the pipeline, they are still pretty rare.Richard Lunniss has worked on most of the big projects of recent years.

His team may not have picked up the high profile and very challenging immersed tube Marmaray rail tunnel under the Bosporus (see feature, page 18), but Capita Symonds civil engineering director Richard Lunniss can claim to be the UK's most experienced immersed tube tunnel designer. Current projects include Oslo Harbour and Limerick and there are many more in the pipeline.

But in one sense Lunniss has come down in the world since he first started work for consultant Travers Morgan in 1967.

At that time he was one of the early pioneers of computer based finite element analysis for bridge design, first used on Nottingham's externally posttensioned concrete, 84m main span Clifton Bridge. From the design office Lunniss moved on to site to be section engineer on the project for two years.

In 1972 another move took him to the Midlands Road Construction Unit for six years.

Here he was very much a bridge specialist, and it was in this incarnation that he made his last career move at the start of 1979.

'I went back to Travers Morgan expecting to work on bridges, and was immediately put in charge of the sea defences which protect the A55 on the north Welsh coast, ' Lunniss recalls.

'There were serious doubts about the precast concrete dolos units we were proposing to use after the spectacular collapse of the Sines breakwater in Portugal.

In the end, we pulled through.' This was on the first phase of the A55 project. By the time the final phase came up in 1983 Lunniss' love affair with bridges was starting to cool. True, this phase did include 14 bridges and associated structures, but at the heart of the £100M project was the Conwy tunnel, the UK's first immersed tube road tunnel, which was to be the main focus of Lunniss' career for the next eight years.

Such was his enthusiasm for the new tunnel construction technique that in 1985 he proposed an immersed tube alternative to the cable stay bridge at the Dartford Crossing - 'I'm still convinced this was the best solution'. And by 1988 he was simultaneously developing the design of the UK's second immersed tube road tunnel under the Medway.

Soon, immersed tube tunnel proposals and projects were piling up on Lunniss' desk. The Conwy and Medway projects actually overlapped by nearly two years. He was also involved in different roles with tunnels as far apart as Hong Kong and Cork in Ireland. All this experience came to fruition in 1994, when Lunniss was appointed as director in charge of the design of the world's largest immersed tube project, a £400M, 3.8km long link in the massive Oresund Crossing between Denmark and Sweden.

Lunniss stayed with Travers Morgan when it was merged into consultant Symonds, now Capita Symonds, where he is still an active proponent of the immersed tunnel option.

As tunnelling technology has advanced, Lunniss says, the immersed tube option looks ever more attractive.

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