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Last Updated: Tuesday, 10 May, 2005, 07:51 GMT 08:51 UK
Tunnel vision takes the biscuit
By Graeme Esson
BBC Scotland's news website

Clyde Tunnel entrance
A banner was placed at the entrance to the tunnel
Would you like to smell coconut biscuits as you drive through the Clyde Tunnel in Glasgow?

Maybe you would rather see leprechauns, or favour having the inner walls lined with old CDs?

If so, you are not alone - these are just some of the suggestions received by the woman who is hoping to light up the lives of the thousands of motorists who use the tunnel every day.

Kathy Friend took matters into her own hands after becoming fed up with the "grim" look of the link.

"That run of concrete and grey buildings is a rather depressing thing to greet you," she said.

"I thought it would be improved a lot with lighting.

Clyde Tunnel workers
The Clyde Tunnel is the length of seven football pitches
It cost 10.5m to build
Work started in July 1957
The construction involved a tunnel shield invented 139 years earlier by Marc Brunel
The first tunnel opened in July 1963, the second in March 1964
The tunnel is used by 65,000 vehicles every day
It is 21ft below the surface of the river

"I approached the city council and said there must be a lot of other people who have an idea of what they want it to look like.

"I pitched the idea of building a website and asking people what they thought."

The project has grown rapidly to the stage where the Partick resident, who works as a freelance lighting camerawoman, has had to set up a not-for-profit organisation to progress the plans.

The Hold Your Breath website attracted 11,000 visitors in its first two months, and 2,000 people have filled in a questionnaire.

It asks them to choose what they would like to hear and smell as they pass through the tunnel, as well as their preferences for colours and shapes.

The poll has attracted a range of suggestions, with the only consensus so far being that it should be a relaxing journey accompanied by tuneful music.

Mirror ball

Many people have suggested an underwater theme, while others favour a mural - something which has been ruled out for fears it would be too much of a distraction for drivers.

One contributor even suggested that there should be a mirror ball in the tunnel.

"We are hoping to do something quite funky," said Kathy.

Kathy Friend
I thought there would be a lot of apathy, but people are really interested and really keen
Kathy Friend

"We are quite keen to have changing patterns because some people use it every day."

Those travelling in the 65,000 vehicles who use the tunnel each day have been pointed in the website's direction by a banner draped at the bridge's entrance.

The Hold Your Breath project took its name from a tradition which has been followed by generations of Glasgow children.

For decades youngsters have been taking a deep breath as they enter the tunnel - and trying to hold it until they come out the other side.

Travelling at the speed limit of 30mph, it should take 57 seconds to travel the tunnel's 762m length.

Kathy said there was no definitive explanation of where the tradition originated, although it was believed that children held their breath because they were going under water.

Tune in

Youngsters have also been having their say on what the tunnel should look like by filling in the questionnaire and submitting their drawings - with many choosing an underwater theme.

Pupils in local schools will also have an input into what people hear as they make the journey under the Clyde.

The aim is to create a soundscape which drivers can tune into on their car radio.

Clyde  Tunnel
An estimated 65,000 vehicles pass through the link each day

The work will also involve musicians from the Paragon Ensemble, along with adult and youth groups in the surrounding area.

The two communities linked by the tunnel, Linthouse and Whiteinch, are classed as deprived areas.

Funding has been secured to ask residents what they think could be done to improve the entrances at each end.

Kathy admitted that she had been surprised at how the project had taken off.

"I thought there would be a lot of apathy, but people are really interested and really keen," she said.

Community consultation

"I don't know why they are so inspired by it. I suppose that they see it as part of their heritage.

"It was quite an achievement at the time and they are enthusiastic about having something interesting and different happening."

Once the community consultation has been carried out a design team will look at the suggestions and then make its submissions to Glasgow City Council.

Work in the Clyde Tunnel
Work is being carried out on the bridge's lining

The local authority has supported the project so far - but that does not guarantee that it will give the green light to the designs which are produced.

Kathy estimated that it would cost about 400,000 to light the tunnel, depending on the final proposal.

Three years ago the local authority launched a 2.6m lighting strategy, which includes the illumination of individual buildings and landmarks.

The council is currently undertaking a 9m project to replace the tunnel linings, due for completion in April next year.

Kathy hopes that the lighting project could become a reality once that work is finished, hopefully in time for a proposed city of light festival in November next year.

9m tunnel refurbishment begins
01 Apr 05 |  Scotland
Row over 10m tunnel bill
13 Oct 03 |  Scotland
Bright idea for city of light
12 Mar 02 |  Scotland

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