Italian lockdown set to see Tyne Pedestrian and Cycle Tunnel work delays drag on for more than a year after reopening

Long-overdue works to finally complete a renovation of the Tyne Pedestrian and Cycle Tunnel could drag on for more than a year after it reopened.

The Tyne Pedestrian and Cycle Tunnel reopened in August 2019
The Tyne Pedestrian and Cycle Tunnel reopened in August 2019

But new inclined lifts still needed to be installed and, after a string of delays with an Italian contractor, that work has now been pushed back even further because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The firm building the glass lifts is based in the Lombardy region, which has been at the centre of the Covid-19 epidemic in Italy, and its staff are not expected to be able to return to complete the tunnel works until September at the earliest.

Tyne and Wear councillors were told the return date was far from certain and entirely dependent on European travel restrictions to control the spread of the virus.

After the tunnel, which connects Howdon and Jarrow, was reopened last August it was said that the lift work should have been completed the following month, before the completion was pushed back to December – a target date that was also missed.

A report to the North East Joint Transport Committee reveals that a visit from Maspero Elevatori workers in January failed to take place.

It adds: “Extensive dialogue has taken place to try and resolve the outstanding technical issues preventing the lifts for being completed, certified and brought into service.

“However, the return of the contractor to site is currently on hold. The contractor is based in the Lombardy region of northern Italy and at this time the area remains in ‘lockdown’ as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.

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“Travel restrictions are in place which means that contract staff cannot travel to the UK. Until they can return to site to complete the outstanding works, testing and certification for use, they cannot be brought into service.”

Work to refurbish the Grade-II listed structure should have been completed in 2015, but was plagued by a string of problems including the discovery of asbestos and its main contractor going bust.

The cost of the project also spiralled from £6.9million to more than £16million.

The pedestrian and cycle tunnels have remained open during lockdown with social distancing measures in place so that users can follow and one-way system for travelling in and out at either end and to ensure that the existing vertical lift is only used by one person at a time.

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