The original Tyne Tunnel, opened in 1967, was completely transformed by main design and build contractor Bouygues Travaux Publics.
It was closed while works took place to reconstruct the interior of the tunnel, creating a separate emergency escape passage.
To do this meant that the traffic lanes had to be realigned and a height restriction imposed on the off side lane. The operational impact of this was considered to be more than outweighed by the enhanced safety inherent in providing a clean air escape passage with doors every 100m.
The change in lane alignment also meant that the main services required for the tunnel had to be located in the area under the road deck. This required a number of access ‘holes’ to be cut through the road deck. All the main services – electricity, water, communications, and drainage in the tunnel were renewed.
A fixed fire suppression system was installed similar to that in the second tunnel. The main supply pipe system was located under the road deck and the ‘zone’ pipes brought up inside the walls to the escape passage.
The Tyne Tunnels were the first road tunnels in the UK to feature a Fixed Fire Suppression System, creating the safest tunnels in the country for motorists.