Tyne Pedestrian and Cyclist Tunnel lifts still waiting to be finished – THREE YEARS after the historic crossing reopened following multi-million refurbishment
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Refurbishment work on the tunnels was meant to be finished in 2015, but the project was hit with a number of setbacks that pushed it more than £10 million over budget.
The crossing, which connects Howdon and Jarrow, finally reopened in August 2019 after being shut for six years – triple what had initially been expected.
But despite foot and bicycle traffic once again resuming, the final installation of two bespoke glass lifts remains a headache for bosses behind the scheme.
And as the third anniversary of the tunnels’ reopening approaches, the long-running scheme appears no closer to reaching completion.
Regional transport chiefs were told last week that contractors are still waiting for the delivery of crucial parts for the two inclined lifts – as had been the case four months ago.
Fiona Bootle, Tyne Tunnels Manager for Transport North East, said: “Work has been done on them with the UK contractors. We are waiting on the delivery of doors and a mechanism.
"There is a problem with the supply chain, as there is in a lot of areas today, with the steel and glass for those doors.”
Members of the overview and scrutiny committee for the North East Joint Transport Committee were told that completion was expected “later in 2022”, although the project has now through several expected completion dates, all of which have been missed.
Transport North East confirmed this March that the works had cost £292,000 in the 2021/22 financial year and will lead to bills of another estimated £281,000 in 2022/23, significantly more than the £350,000 previously quoted as the expected remaining cost of the lift works.
It has been suggested that a legal claim could be made against Italian engineers Maspero Elevatori in an attempt to recover some funds.
The Local Democracy Reporting Service previously revealed in 2020 that the cost of the tunnels’ renovation stood then at £16.9m, way above the initial £6.9m earmarked for the project.
Once the doors and other remaining parts are delivered an installed, the lifts will have to go through a certification and testing process.
The two inclined lifts, which travel on a steep incline down the historic escalator shaft to the lowest part of the tunnels, will be able to carry up to six cyclists and their bikes per trip.
Previous delays to the renovation of the tunnels were blamed on their listed building status, the discovery of asbestos, and original contractor GB Building Solutions going bust, which saw work grind to a halt for 18 months.
The river crossing originally opened in 1951, but by 2008 was in a ‘dilapidated state’, with lifts and escalators regularly out of order and water ingress ‘evident throughout the tunnels’.