The excavation process for a tunnel changes in terms of its service requirements, ground conditions and the stability of surface buildings in urban areas. When a tunnel is excavated, there will be settlement, which may cause damage to surface structures. To control and limit the settlement caused by tunnelling operations, there have been many tunnelling techniques proposed. Thus, in this paper, a number of Finite Element Method analyses were conducted to investigate the effects of different patterns for advancing the tunnel face on the settlement. The Heathrow Express Trial tunnel was constructed in accordance with the principles of the New Austrian Tunnelling Method (NATM). The settlement measurements taken during its construction were used to validate the results from the analyses undertaken. Three different face advance techniques were used during the construction of the Heathrow Express Trial tunnel viz. Twin sidewall excavation (TS1), single sidewall excavation (TS2), and Crown, Bench and Invert excavation (TS3). As the trial work proved that TS2 produced the minimum settlement above tunnel centreline, only TS2 was subjected to the FEM analysis in this research. In order to simulate TS2 correctly three types of excavation models were devised and the results compared to field measurements of TS2. For the FEM analysis the Hypothetical Modulus of Elasticity (HME) soft lining approach was used and a practical method to estimate HME is proposed for when it is used for different face advance sequences. Results proved that when the excavation pattern was changed, the HME value was also changed and settlement over the tunnel centreline changed in terms of the face advance pattern adopted. (C) 2003 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.