Historic plans for Tyne tunnel between South Shields and Tynemouth unearthed

Historic plans for a tunnel between South Shields and Tynemouth are among the latest additions to the North East’s museums.

Thursday, 24th December 2020, 2:50 pm
The Shields Ferry is the only direct transport link between South Shields and North Shields/Tynemouth - but historic plans for a tunnel between the two sides of the river have been unearthed.

Proposals for an ‘underground tube system’ were first mooted about a century ago, with boasts the scheme could cut journey times between the two towns to less than a minute.

But modern day transport chiefs have poured cold river water on the idea, predicting it would be a ‘massive engineering challenge costing hundreds of millions of pounds’ unlikely to ever become a reality.

A spokesman for Tyne and Wear Metro operator Nexus said: “The idea of a Metro tunnel between South Shields and North Shields sounds a great idea on paper, but, in reality, such a scheme is bordering on impossible.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

“We can see why the plan faced such local objections in 1926.

“The second Tyne Tunnel cost £260million to build, so any third rail tunnel under the river would require a large amount of Government funding after detailed feasibility studies and submission of a business case.

“There are currently no plans for such a project, but maybe one day in the future someone will look at it again.

“It would need a lot of political will, but you can never say never.”

As well as the sheer depth any tunnels would need to be dug to, challenges would also include huge clearances of land and buildings to make way for the link.

Details of the plans, dating from the 1920s and 1930s, were revealed in an update on recent acquisitions by Tyne and Wear Museums and Archives, which runs attractions such as South Shields Museum, Arbeia Roman Fort and the Great North Museum.

According to a report for the organisation’s Strategic Board: “In the 1920s the engineer F. W. Chalmers Kearney, proposed an underground tube system under the River Tyne between South Shields and Tynemouth, claiming the whole journey would only take 50 seconds in high-speed electric monorail cars and that the system could carry nine million passengers a year.

“A 100ft working model of the project was installed at the Casino, in South Shields.

“The proposal was granted a Provisional Order authorising its construction in 1926 by the Ministry of Transport but in the end local objections led to the scheme being shelved.”

Support your Gazette and become a subscriber today. Enjoy unlimited access to local news, the latest football stories and new puzzles every day. With a digital subscription, you can see fewer ads, enjoy faster load times, and get access to exclusive newsletters and content. Click here to subscribe.