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What’s going on Underground? Tunnelling into the Future

The talk will describe the critical importance of geology and the development and application of the latest tunnelling techniques.

Professor Robert Mair FREng FRS
University of Cambridge

In Shanghai 20 km of tunnel are to be built every year for the next 20 years. In Rome a new metro line beneath the Colosseum is about to be constructed. In London the exciting Crossrail project has got the green light. Urban congestion is a serious problem in many cities, so the creation of underground space and in particular the development of underground transport is environmentally essential. How can tunnels be built in ground sometimes as soft as toothpaste? What can go wrong? Will buildings above be affected by subsidence? What else is underground already that might get in the way? Geotechnical engineering, the application of the science of soil mechanics and engineering geology, plays a key role in answering these questions.

Current and future projects from all over the world will demonstrate the size, technical challenges and complexity of modern underground construction. Protection from subsidence is critical and new ways to ensure buildings are unaffected during tunnelling will be explained.

Professor Mair has been closely involved with the design and construction of the Jubilee Line Extension for London Underground, and with the Channel Tunnel Rail Link and Crossrail projects.


Professor Robert Mair | talks


Date and Time:

18 February 2009 at 6:30 pm


1 hour



The Royal Society
6-9 Carlton House Terrace
+44 20 74 51 2500

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Available from:

This lecture is free - no ticket or advanced booking required. Doors open at 5.45pm and seats will be allocated on a first-come-first-served basis.

Additional Information:

Nearest Tube: Charing Cross or Piccadily Circus

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