'Fascinating' historic plans revealed for 'Kearney Tube' system linking North and South Shields in just 50 seconds via tunnel under the Tyne
Almost half a century before the current road tunnel was opened, proposals were drawn up for a link between North and South Shields which would have cut journey times to less than a minute.
And while ‘local objections’ in the 1920s meant work on the scheme never started, modern commuters could soon get the chance to see what might have been.
Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums (TWAM) which runs attractions such as South Shields Museum, Arbeia Roman Fort and the Great North Museum, acquired a cache of documents on the project at auction last year (2020).
Adam Bell, TWAM’s assistant keeper of history said: “We were pleased to be able to acquire this interesting collection to add to existing material about the ‘Kearney Tube’.
“The collection is both fascinating, as it provides detailed information about the proposed tube and about the man behind the scheme, and elements of it are also very displayable, such as the coloured map showing the plans for the station and track layout in South Shields, and the tube car blueprints.
“We’re so happy that the material will now be preserved and made available to researchers at TWAM, as well as being made available for any future displays in South Shields.”
Plans show proposals for a ‘North and South Shields Light Railway Station’, near South Shields’s Mile End Road, and an LNER ‘Tyneside Electric Lines Route Diagram’ similar to the modern day Metro network.
It also includes details of the so-called ‘Kearney Tube’ under the river between North and South Shields, which bosses at the time claimed would slash crossing times to just 50 seconds and carry nine million passengers a year.
A Government ‘provisional order’ allowing construction to begin is another item added to the collection.
But modern transport chiefs for Tyne and Wear have suggested the public are unlikely to see such a project brought to life any time soon, calling it a ‘great idea on paper’, but ‘bordering on impossible’.
There are currently no firm plans for TWAM to display the documents, but they are expected to feature in future exhibitions and displays.