Work finally restarts on Tyne Pedestrian and Cyclist Tunnel, with end in sight after years-long saga
The saga of the long overdue refurbishment of the Tyne Pedestrian and Cyclist Tunnels could soon be at an end, transport chiefs hope.
The major restoration of the tunnels was meant to be completed in 2015, but spiralled more than £10million over budget and this key element is still unfinished.
Italian engineers Maspero Elevatori were put in charge of two new inclined glass lifts for the crossing, which connects Jarrow and Howdon, but workers have not been able to return to the North East since January 2020 because of the pandemic.
The long series of delays has left local transport officials and councillors increasingly exasperated, but steps are now being taken to finally get the project back on track.
It has been confirmed that UK-based specialists Lift Design have been appointed to replace Maspero and have started work, with hopes that the bespoke lifts can be completed and operating before the end of 2021.
The idea of a new contractor being brought in was first mooted in April and councillors were told on Thursday that engineers were now in the tunnels and recommencing the installation.
It is estimated that approximately 12 to 16 weeks of engineering work is required on the lifts to complete the works, testing, and safety certification.
Bosses have declined to confirm what impact the switch in contractors has had on the project’s budget, if costs have been sent spiralling even higher, or whether Maspero Elevatori were paid the full value of their contract.
A spokesperson for Transport North East said: “The details of the financial position are confidential and commercially sensitive at this stage. We will be reporting to the appropriate committees to provide updates on this development.”
As of last August, the total cost of the tunnel refit stood at £16.99million, well above the initial £6.9million budget, and it was estimated that the remaining lift works would cost £350,000.
The tunnel was reopened in August 2019, at which point it was hoped the lift works would be completed just a month later before that target was repeatedly pushed back.