hyperTunnel, a tunnelling and underground construction technology start-up, has been awarded a contract to work with the UK’s Network Rail on non-disruptive tunnel construction, enlargement and repair work.
The Network Rail R&D contract will see hyperTunnel’s suite of innovative repair products and services trialled for the maintenance and improvement of the UK’s regional railway infrastructure, which includes approximately 650 Victorian age tunnels. Project delivery is well underway, with Phase 1 of 2 already signed off and completion of a large-scale demonstrator due over the summer.
David Castlo, Network Technical Head (Mining and Tunnels) at Network Rail, said: “Our large portfolio of Victorian tunnels requires increasing levels of work to meet the needs of the railway network. However, we want to reduce the level of disruption to our passengers so we are constantly searching for new approaches to enlarging or repairing tunnels that reduce the length of time a tunnel will be closed to trains.”
hyperTunnel is a UK-based deep tech start-up company, which is developing radical new methods of tunnelling. Its aim is to transform underground construction by building tunnels faster, with less risk, and in a more economical and environmentally friendly way through the application of technologies that have been proven in other industries. These include digital twins, robotics, 3D printing and digital underground surveying, supported by AI and VR.
“We are delighted that hyperTunnel’s application of the latest technologies will provide Network Rail with new methods of repairing and enlarging tunnels that see only very minimal tunnel closures,” says Patrick Lane-Nott, Director of Engineering at hyperTunnel. “Details of our various unique methodologies are still largely under wraps, but they are suitably developed and proven to attract the attention of Network Rail. We are very excited about the potential of this collaboration, as it will allow us to demonstrate more widely the time and cost-saving benefits of our processes, as well as the safety and environmental advantages.”
The hyperTunnel concept – the integration of various established approaches into a proprietary system for the construction of tunnels – was devised by businessmen Steve Jordan and Jeremy Hammond in 2018. They realised that a re-imagining of the established tunnel-building process would be necessary in order to sufficiently reduce the cost of tunnels for a tidal energy project. hyperTunnel’s intellectual property also breaks down into new, modular approaches for the maintenance, repair, monitoring and enlargement of tunnels.
From its headquarters in Basingstoke, as well as the hyperTunnel Outdoor Learning Environment (known as the hOLE) and co-located Geolab, also in Hampshire, hyperTunnel is heavily engaged with global construction contractors and consultants and is actively tendering for underground construction projects.