Tyne Tunnel traffic fell by 70% during lockdown - transport chiefs promise support for 'vital' part of road network
The Tyne Tunnel has ‘suffered’ during the coronavirus lockdown and has even been forced to request government cash.
More than 50,000 people used the river crossing last year, but the fallout from COVID-19 has seen traffic levels fall by up to 70%.
However, travel bosses in the North East are also cautiously hopeful the road link could recover quickly, with a revival in fortunes currently looking ‘more promising’ than on the public transport network.
“Public transport passengers have plummeted during COVID,” said Tobyn Hughes, managing director of Transport North East and Metro operator Nexus.
“Road traffic also reduced significantly, to 30% or less of normal levels, although local levels are starting to increase again as parts of the economy begin to open up.
“We’ve discussed the impact on buses and Metro finances, but it’s also worth noting that the Tyne Tunnel, which is a PFI (public finance initiative) contract, has also suffered.”
Hughes was speaking at a meeting of the North East Joint Transport Committee, which was held remotely due to social distancing guidelines and broadcast via Youtube.
According to a report for the panel, lockdown has had a ‘profound effect’ on toll income used to pay off debts from the construction of the second road tunnel.
It added the Department for Transport had been contacted about possible financial assistance for the crossing, which has remained fully operational throughout the pandemic.
Speaking after the meeting, Martin Gannon, the committee’s chairman, said: “TT2 Ltd, which operates the Tyne Tunnels on behalf of the North East Joint Transport Committee, has requested assistance from Government given the severe loss of income suffered as a result of traffic flows during Covid-19 lockdown measures.
“We are in discussions with TT2 Ltd to explore ways to provide them with support during this crisis period.
“While no central government funding has been provided for the Tyne Tunnels, advice from government to local authorities is to engage with key suppliers to ensure they are able to continue to provide services.
“The Tyne Tunnels are a vital part of the regional road network and we are keen to work with TT2 to provide an appropriate form of support in the short term and to keep in place the longer term plans for future improvements to the Tyne Tunnels, including the Tyne Pass freeflow project.”