British firm set to rescue stricken Tyne pedestrian tunnel project after catalogue of delays

Restoration of an historic river crossing stalled by the coronavirus pandemic could be rescued by a British firm, according to transport chiefs.

Sunday, 11th April 2021, 12:09 pm

However, after the COVID-19 outbreak saw the original Italian engineers locked out of the country, steps are now being taken to see if a home grown company could take over the project.

“We have recently had a UK lift specialist in place to carry out a survey on the lifts, to try and establish what outstanding work is required,” said Tyne Tunnels Manger Fiona Bootle.

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The original wooden escalator at the Tyne pedestrian tunnel
The original wooden escalator at the Tyne pedestrian tunnel

“The original contractor is based in Italy and hasn’t been able to attend for the whole of 2020 and into this year (2021), so we’re trying to look at other options.”

Bootle was speaking at a meeting of the North East Joint Transport Committee’s Tyne and Wear Sub Committee, which was held by videolink and broadcast via YouTube.

Work to refurbish the tunnel started in May 2013 and was supposed to take 57 weeks and cost £6.5 million.

The tunnel links up with pedestrian and cycle routes at either side, with plans to improve links and encourage cycling commuting.

Bootle added: “It’s not an easy job, they’re very bespoke lifts, they were made to fit inside that historical listed building tunnel.

“The size of the lift, the incline of the lift, all has to be made as a specialist job, so to get them finished and to get somebody potentially different to finish them hasn’t been very easy to find the right type of specialist, but we have made some progress.”

Although the project remains incomplete, the reopened tunnels have proved popular, with monthly usage higher this year than over the same period last year.

A trial of 24-hour opening in late 2020 also proved successful and is set to continue throughout 2021, with bosses concluding there had been ‘no major concerns or incidents of antisocial behaviour’, with night shift workers especially benefiting from the move.

The tunnel reopened in 2019 after years of delays on refurbishment work

The tunnel is a key part of plans to improve commuting and cut carbon emissions in South Tyneside.

Plans for a new £1.15million cycle route to the new International Advanced Manufacturing Park (IAMP) on the border of South Tyneside and Sunderland were approved in 2019.

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