Traffic numbers driven up at Tyne Tunnel as toll charges are lifted to tackle sinkhole congestion chaos
Tyne Tunnel chiefs are helping traffic move more freely - after a sinkhole ripped open one of the region's busiest road routes.
Toll charges have been lifted at the tunnel, which links South Tyneside with North Tyneside, to ease congestion while repair work is carried out on the A1.
Thousands of motorists faced huge delays after the sinkhole opened up on the A1, near the Lobley Interchange, northbound, on Saturday night.
Police urged drivers to avoid the Gateshead-bound section of the A1 while vital repairs were completed.
Tyne Tunnel bosses stepped in to offer a free toll period until the sinkhole is sealed up.
The repair work is expected to take place on the road - which carries an average of 90,000 vehicles a day - until Wednesday
Tyne Tunnel bosses say they seen a surge in traffic volume since charges, which are usually £1.70 for cars and £3.30 for heavy goods vehicles, were temporarily removed.
Stuart Sutton, Operations Manager at the Tyne Tunnels said: “As expected, given the sinkhole repairs on the A1, we have seen an increase in traffic volume with extra vehicles having travelled through the Tyne Tunnels on Monday.
“Thanks to close partnership working with Highways England and The North East Combined Authority, we have been able to deliver this toll free period, which will hopefully minimise the congestion experienced by our customers and motorists across the region”.
A raft of congestion-cutting measures have been launched by highways bosses while the work is carried out.
A contraflow was put in place between junctions 67 and 68 in time for the peak Monday morning travel period to enable traffic to move in both directions along the route.
The hole, which is 3m deep and around 6.5m diameter and believed to be related to old mine workings in the area, has now been filled with a specialist concrete mixture. Contractors working for Highways England are now drilling holes to pump more material underneath the repair to prevent further collapse. It is intended the carriageways will be safe to re-open to drivers on Wednesday morning.
Rob Beckitt, duty operations manager at Highways England said: “We have been working hard since the hole was discovered and our contractors have now started work on the second stage of repairs after filling it with a specialist concrete mix.
“Safety is our top priority and we have to ensure the carriageway is totally safe before drivers use it.”