One of the tunnels, higher than the other two, was designed for pedestrian use only, while the two deeper ones were reserved for horse-drawn carriages, one for going north and the other for those travelling south. Contained within the twinned rotundas was a 24m shaft which housed stairwells and hydraulic lifts.
The rotundas were designed by the architecture practice of Simpson & Wilson, made up of engineers Alexander Simpson and Walter Stuart Wilson. They were opened for business on July 15, 1895, but they did not prove as profitable as the investors had hoped. By 1915 the City of Glasgow Corporation had to intervene financially to keep the operating running, and in 1926 bought the tunnels outright for the handsome sum of almost £100,000. However, the upper pedestrian tunnel had fallen into disrepair, with water leaking into it. This was eventually closed, and pedestrians were able to walk alongside the horses in the lower tunnels.
The tunnel was raided for metal during the war effort for World War II. During this period, the lower vehicle tunnels were deemed unfit for service, and closed down. However, the City of Glasgow Corporation re-opened the pedestrian underpass shortly after the war ended, fitting it with pump equipment to keep it dry. It stayed open until the mid-1980s.
Both of the B-listed Rotunda entrances found other uses after the tunnel was closed. While the northern one was converted into a restaurant, the southern one transformed into the Dome of Discovery during the 1988 Glasgow Garden Festival, a spiritual predecessor to the nearby Glasgow Science Centre. It was also briefly home to the famous Nardinis Ice Cream Parlour chain, although has been lying in a state of decay for some years.