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Clyde Tunnel & Approaches


Glasgow Motorway Archive - A739 Map

The Clyde Tunnel was the first modern road crossing of the River Clyde. First recommended in reports published in the 1940s, it was planned as a way or relieving traffic on the congested bridges of the city centre.

The tunnel and its approaches were built in stages throughout the 1950s & 60s. They comprise grade separated dual carriageways and at-grade four lane single carriageways. There are many impressive structures and features.


The first section to open was the Clyde Tunnel west bore on the 3rd of July 1963, with the southern and northern approaches completed in 1967 and 1969 respectively. The tunnel and its approach roads remain an important link across the city and carry in excess of 60,000 vehicles per day.

View of the Clyde Tunnel interior prior to opening to traffic in July 1963.

The Clyde Tunnel provided much needed traffic relief when it was completed in two stages in 1963 and 1964. It was Glasgow's first major postwar roads project and improved connections across the west of the city.

Before the tunnel was constructed and completed in the early 1960s, the need for an additional road crossing in Glasgow has long been recognised. Long before The Highway Plan made print, the route this crossing would take was recommended by Robert Bruce who submitted his report to the corporation of Glasgow in 1946. Forming part of an outer ring road for the city it would serve as a rapid and efficient means of connecting the districts of Linthouse on the south bank and Whiteinch on the north bank. A tunnel was chosen over a bridge to provide minimal disruption to shipping that at the time was a major industry on the banks of the River Clyde.


Construction commenced after the inaugural ceremony which took place on the 26th of June 1957. Work began on creating two separate tunnel bores with total lengths of 2500 ft (726 meters). The design, by Halcrow and Partners incorporated two lanes of traffic for each tunnel bore with a pedestrian and cycle subway beneath the road deck. The north and south tunnel portals were built in reinforced concrete and provide the foundations for the ventilation building which house the exhaust fans to provide air circulation throughout the length of the tunnel. The tunnels themselves are built in cast iron to an internal diameter of 29 ft (8.8 meters) which incorporates 22 ft (6.7 meters) of space for vehicular traffic. Emergency equipment such as fire alarms, internal telephones and firefighting equipment are found at every 100 yard interval inside each tunnel along a maintenance walkway.

Clyde Tunnel & Approaches Construction Summary



Opening Date

Clyde Tunnel

West Tunnel

3rd July 1963

East Tunnel

23rd March 1964

South Approach

M8 J25 - Linthouse

30th November 1967

North Approach


9th April 1969

Above the maintenance walkways at the sides of the carriageways the tunnels have an internal cladding to conceal the cast iron segments and prevent local seepage water from falling onto the road. A framework of aluminium alloy supporting members was first fixed in front of the cast iron tunnel segments. Panels of rigid PVC sheeting were fixed to this framework up to ceiling level. A false ceiling was formed in flat self-coloured aluminium alloy ceiling panels. Above this ceiling is the exhaust duct and to improve air flow conditions the remaining section of the cast iron segments was covered by the impregnated water-resistant laminated plastic boarding.


The West tunnel (Northbound) was completed first and opened on the 3rd of July 1963 by The Queen. Initially this meant that the Clyde Tunnel was a single carriageway route with traffic going in both directions, north and southbound through the West Tunnel. Overtaking was of course, prohibited and indicated via a solid white line between both lanes of traffic. This situation remained until The East Tunnel (Southbound) opened the following year in March and allowed for the West Tunnel to be used for Northbound only and the new East tunnel to be used for Southbound. This marked the full completion of the tunnel contract. The main contractor was Charles Brand & Son Ltd and the total cost of the project was £10.5 million (around £200 million in today's prices).


The approach roads to the north and south of the tunnel, also designed by Halcrow and Partners, were constructed between 1965 and 1969. In the south, a contract valued at £1.15 million and built by Melville, Dundas & Whitson Ltd, to link the tunnel with the proposed M8 Renfrew Motorway was completed on 30th November 1967. North of the tunnel, a contract valued at £2.18 million, linking the tunnel with Crow Road and constructed by Balfour Beatty, was completed on 9th April 1969.

This article was first published in December 2020.

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