Newton Fund - Shaking Tunnel Vision

Lead Research Organisation: University of Leeds
Department Name: Civil Engineering


Vision - In Shaking Tunnel Vision we want to develop novel disaster management strategies for tunnels under repeated seismic loading through innovative monitoring and analysis of a new World Class Case Study.

Tunnels are one of cities' and nations' critical lifelines in the modern World, transporting people, water, electricity, minerals and energy. They are an essential part of the infrastructure that serves people and therefore, are critical to their wealth and well-being. The impacts of global urbanisation and Climate Change are forcing nations to look towards underground space for their future infrastructure. Internationally, tunnel construction is increasing and Chile is no exception. Multiple tunnelling projects are in the country's pipeline or being currently designed and / or built (e.g. the Andean tunnel to connect Argentina and Chile, multiple underground mine tunnels, like the 1,000 km projected in the Chuquicamata mine and Hydraulic power plants, to name but a few).
Their behaviour under repeated seismic loading is not precisely understood and therefore, current designs and disaster risk management strategies could be greatly improved. This is, partly, due to the lack of performance data from real tunnels. Accidents are rare but they do occur, and when they do, have significant consequences (e.g. the Pedro Galleguillos tunnel in Tocopilla, 2007).
The purpose of this project is to design and install a monitoring system in ttwo tunnels (La Polvora, Valparaiso, and Metro Santiago) with the intention of: (1) fundamentally (re-)defining our understanding of the behaviour of tunnels under repeated seismic loading; (2) developing an engineering-risk-based disaster management approach for tunnels in seismic areas; (3) creating a case study that will become an internationally recognised reference and will be used widely in years to come for the validation of future improved numerical and analytical design approaches.

Planned Impact

The impact of this research has been divided into four main areas: Society, Economy, People and Skills and Knowledge.

The societal benefits of this proposal are: reduced risk of disruption through tunnel closures, minimising CO2 emission targets, and general environmental related benefits for health and well-being from the use of public transport and enhanced links.

Tunnels are critical to the economy of the region in Chile: their failure would have a catastrophic impact on the economy of the country. Hence, this research will minimise this risk by improving understanding of the behaviour of these structures, but also the disaster risk management tool that will help attract investment.

People and Skills
We will train three researchers, improve the profile of others and consolidate the careers of other researchers in the area. We will carry out workshops, seminars and courses in Chile for the benefit of the engineering and disaster management communities there.

The project will have a unique contribution knowledge, carrying out pioneering research on the behaviour of tunnels under repeated seismic loading in the transversal and longitudinal directions. It will also create the foundations of a engineering-risk-based disaster management assessment tool for tunnels to be used Worldwide.


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Description We have discovered that repeated earthquakes distort the effect of tunnels on the surrounding infrastructure, changing the way damage is assessed. We have also developed new scaling laws for undertaking shaking table tests of tunnels when damage (cracking has occurred): this enables assessment of structure integrity more effectively.

In addition, we have developed fragility curves for circular tunnels.
Exploitation Route Although it is early, the findings will affect how people design and assess the risk of tunnels in seismic areas.

We are preparing further publications and recently a review paper with World-leading figures.
Sectors Construction,Transport

Description The project has arisen significant interest in Chile, the country where the instrumentation of the project is to be installed. During the first project visit, we had the opportunity to discuss the project with members of the Ministry of Public Works in Chile, who, as a consequence of our discussions have started discussing the possibility of integrating our proposed monitoring system in many more of the tunnel infrastructure in Chile. This is of course subject to the findings obtained from the on-site monitoring system which is still being finalised. In any case, the project has prompted further discussions with the engineering community in Chile. Interest now has expanded to other countries like China, which is the largest tunnel building nation currently by far. A Special Issue titled "Special Issue on Seismic performance of tunnels: from experiments to analysis" in the journal Tunnelling and Underground Space Technology ( The Special Issue has now finalised with over 8 papers being accepted or processed. This included a review paper co-authored with some of the best known reasearchers in the field. The Special Issue was designed during a workshop organised using the Further Funding bu HEFCE. This workshop was attended by: • Prof. Antonio Bobet, University of Purdue, USA • Prof. Gopal Madabushi, University of Cambridge, UK • Prof. Giulia Viggiani, University of Cambridge, UK • Prof. Ioannis Anastasopoulos, ETH Zurich, Switzerland • Prof. Francesco Silvestri, University Federico II Naples, Italy • Prof. Emilio Billotta, University Federico II Naples, Italy Additionally, the following people who could unfortunately not come but they agreed to continue to collaborate and have participated in the review paper: • Prof Yousseff Hashash, University of Illinois-Champaign, USA • Prof. Chuan He, Southwest Jiaotong Univeristy, China • Prof. Kyriazis Pitilakis, Aristotle University Thessaloniki, Greece
Sector Construction,Transport
Description Extending Shaking Tunnel Vision
Amount £79,496 (GBP)
Organisation Higher Education Funding Council for England 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2018 
End 07/2018
Description Extending Shaking Tunnel Vision 
Organisation Southwest Jiaotong University
Country China 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We approached them to undertake shaking table tests at their Facilities (second largest shaking table in the World).
Collaborator Contribution As a consequence of Shaking Tunnel Vision, tow PhD students from SWJTU have successfully attracted CSC funding to undertake research visits to Leeds to work on the seismic behaviour of tunnels.
Impact It is still early days as it has just started.
Start Year 2017
Description Article in Tunnels & Tunnelling magazine 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact This was a magazine article that featured current research in tunnels. The article highlighted Leeds University, and Shaking Tunnel Vision as a pioneering project with great potential. The title of the article is "All academic?"
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016