Tyne Pedestrian Tunnel refurbishment now more than £10million over budget
The unfinished refurbishment of the Tyne Pedestrian Tunnel has now spiralled more than £10million over budget.
New figures reveal that the total cost of the renovation stood at £16.99million on August 31 this year, way above the initial £6.9million budget for the project.
And it will still cost hundreds of thousands more pounds to complete the one outstanding aspect of the refit, the installation of two new inclined glass lifts.
The tunnel did finally reopen to the public in summer 2019 after being closed for six years, but has been shut again recently due to failures with both of its vertical lifts.
It is now hoped that the pedestrian and cycle crossing, which connects Jarrow and Howdon, can reopen on Wednesday, November 4.
A report to the North East Joint Transport Committee says local officials have been “frustrated at the lack of progress” with the refurbishment this year and have pressured Italian lift engineers Maspero to return to Tyneside, but it is “difficult to force them back to site with the quarantine restrictions in place and the workers concerns regarding a 10 week stay in the UK”.
After the tunnel was reopened in August 2019 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.
Maspero engineers were last on site in January and had been due to return in February, but had to call off that trip due to the Covid outbreak in Italy.
It is estimated that there are 10 weeks of construction, testing, and certification needed to bring the inclined lifts into operation, which will cost around £350,000.
Previous delays to the tunnel’s renovation were blamed on its listed building status, the discovery of asbestos, and original contractor GB Building Solutions going bust.
A spokesperson from the North East Joint Transport Committee, said: “We are pleased that the newly refurbished Tunnels were able to open to the public in August 2019 and have seen over 220,000 cyclists and pedestrians making use of this unique local asset since then. The site is open from 6am to 10pm each day and is free of charge to users.
“The outstanding aspect of the refurbishment is the completion of the inclined lifts which has unfortunately been delayed throughout 2020 due to the ongoing pandemic.
“Travel restrictions in the UK and Italy have prevented the contractor returning to the site as originally planned to complete the works.
“Given the rising rate of coronavirus cases across Europe, it seems likely that the return to site will be further delayed until the new year.
“We are working hard to resolve this as soon as possible and all options are being considered.
“In the meantime it is intended that the Tunnels will remain open for public access throughout the winter, with use of the vertical lifts.”