Queensway Tunnel

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Light pylon near Birkenhead tunnel portalMore than three kilometres long, a single-bore circular tunnel wide enough to carry four lanes of traffic side-by-side, taken underneath one of the UK's major river mouths. It would be a celebrated engineering feat if it were completed today. But the Queensway Tunnel — or the Birkenhead Tunnel, if you're a local — was excavated by hand to connect Liverpool to the Wirral, and opened in 1934.

At the time it was the biggest tunnel the world had ever seen — wider than any other, and substantially longer than most other subaqueous tunnels. It is incredible that it is not more widely recognised as one of the UK's pieces of landmark engineering, but then it sits entirely underground and as a result doesn't get much attention. It's a miracle that it exists at all, given that the government was very reluctant to provide any funding and Liverpool was the only local authority interested in building it.

Since it opened, Queensway has seen its above-ground parts altered almost beyond recognition, and below ground parts have fallen out of use and become derelict.

This section of CBRD explores the Queensway from every angle — from the early stages of planning to a tour of the tunnel as it stands today.

Click the name of a section to read more.

Grand plansGrand plans

An audacious plan in terms of the engineering challenges, and the forthright way in which it was pushed through the planning process, the story of the tunnel's construction is a fascinating one.

Wartime usesWartime uses

A marvel of engineering and the safest place in Liverpool in an air raid. No wonder the government had its eye on the Queensway in the darkest days of the Second World War.

Flyovers and flashing lightsFlyovers and flashing lights

From the sixties to the present, a look at the most visible ground-level feature of the tunnel: the tangled knot of flyovers that service it.

Liverpool photo tourLiverpool photo tour

A stroll around the tunnel mouth in Liverpool and its many associated approach roads. It's remarkable how little survives of the original road configuration here.

Birkenhead photo tourBirkenhead photo tour

A look around Birkenhead's tunnel entrance, the associated complex of flyovers, the surviving art deco architecture, and the abandoned Rendel Street branch.

End of Mersey Tunnels Regulations

All photographs taken in Liverpool appear courtesy of Bryn Buck.

Historical information is from the National Archives, held at file references MT 39/123 (initial planning); RAIL 474/255 (opening ceremony); MT 39/488 (wartime proposals); MT 118/215 (Liverpool flyover proposals); MT 118/261 (Birkenhead flyover proposals); and MT 118/261 (Birkenhead flyover system opening ceremony).