More 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 article explores the Queensway from every angle — from the early stages of planning to a tour of the tunnel as it stands today.
- Initial planning and early proposals for a bridge across the Mersey: National Archives MT 39/123.
- Opening ceremony and details of tunnel at opening: National Archives RAIL 474/255.
- Proposals for wartime use of the tunnel: National Archives MT 39/488.
- Flyovers at Liverpool end of the tunnel, proposals and construction: National Archives MT 118/215.
- Flyovers and traffic control at Birkenhead end of the tunnel, proposals, construction and operational difficulty: National Archives MT 118/261.
- Birkenhead traffic control system opening ceremony and commemorative booklet: National Archives MT 118/261.