Tunnelling operative

Tunnelling operative

Tunnelling operatives build the underground tunnels needed for services such as rail lines and water works.

The Role

  • Tunnelling operatives build the underground tunnels needed for services such as rail lines and water works
  • Operatives also use computers with construction management software to help keep the work running smoothly
  • Most tunnellers start out working in the pit bottom removing earth, rock and other waste materials before becoming qualified
  • Tunnelling operatives have to be able to work in a confined environment for long periods of time, as some tunnels are several kilometres long
  • Preparing the site for tunnelling work
  • Organising the delivery and storage of all the equipment
  • Ensuring the correct materials are available for the team to start work


  • Newly trained Tunnelling Operatives can earn in the region of £17,000£20,000
  • Trained with experience Tunnelling Operatives can earn in the region of £20,000£25,000
  • Senior Tunnelling Operatives can earn in excess of £25,000

Salaries typically range depending on location and level of responsibility. Salaries and career options improve with chartered status.

Qualifications and Training

There are no set qualifications for becoming a tunnelling operative, but it helps to have GCSEs or Standard Grades in Maths and English or their equivalents such as BTEC, Welsh Baccalaureate, WJEC in Construction or Standard Grades/Scottish National 4 or 5s.

Employers may be more interested in whether you have onsite experience as a labourer before moving you on to becoming qualified in tunnelling through an apprenticeship or college course.  

Next Steps


Check out the latest Tunnelling operative vacancies: 

As these are external websites, the number of job vacancies related to your preferred job role may vary. 

Check daily to see new opportunities as they are posted!

Find out more

For information on job roles in Scotland please visit the Skills Development Scotland website My World of Work.

Take our Ultimate Quiz to find out which role is right for you.

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