New Tyne Tunnel welcomes first motorists

26th February 2011

After less than three years of construction, the new Tyne Tunnel was commissioned for public use at midnight last night (Friday 25th February 2011).

Built as part of the £260m New Tyne Crossing project, the new road tunnel links East Howdon north of the Tyne with Jarrow in the south, and upon completion of the project will complete the dualling of the A19.

Dignitaries and the project team gather to take part in the midnight commissioning. L to R: Trevor Jackson Managing Director of TT2; Leader of South Tyneside Council, Cllr Iain Malcolm; Cllr David Wood, Chairman of the TWITA; Paul Fenwick, Project Director for the TWITA; North Tyneside’s Elected Mayor, Mrs Linda Arkley and Nicolas Caille, Project Managing Director for Bouygues Travaux Publics UK. 

Councillor David Wood, Chairman of the Tyne and Wear Integrated Transport Authority (TWITA), Councillor Iain Malcolm, Leader of South Tyneside Council, and Linda Arkley, Elected Mayor of North Tyneside, were the first to drive through the new tunnel.

Councillor Wood said: “Having watched the various milestones of this project play out over the years, it gave me great pleasure to watch the tolls barrier lift before us, and to take that first journey through the new Tyne Tunnel. Although today does not mark completion of the New Tyne Crossing project, it is one of the most significant milestones and one I am immensely proud to be part of.”

North Tyneside’s Elected Mayor, Mrs Linda Arkley, said: “This a fantastic milestone for the region, which is the result of a lot of hard work and a great deal of commitment by all the region’s councils, and the whole team who have completed a tremendous feat of engineering.

“This tunnel is about much more than improving the experience for motorists. It will strengthen the region’s transport network and make us an increasingly attractive area for business and further investment, which will benefit the people and communities on both sides of the river.”

The Leader of South Tyneside Council, Cllr Iain Malcolm, said: “I’m delighted that this impressive new tunnel is now open to traffic and the project as a whole is on schedule.

“The New Tyne Crossing is arguably one of the most significant projects to shape the infrastructure of the North East for many years. When fully opened in December it will transform transport links for the A19 economic corridor, improve connectivity and job opportunities and be a vital element in the regeneration of the region.”

The guests were driven through the tunnel in the “2011 European Car of the Year”, the all electric Nissan Leaf, which will be produced at the Nissan’s Sunderland Plant, a few miles south of the tunnel site in 2013.

 The “2011 European Car of the Year”, the all electric Nissan Leaf, leads the first of the vehicles through the new Tyne Tunnel.

Kevin Fitzpatrick, VP Manufacturing at Nissan, said: “The opening of the new Tyne tunnel marks a significant step towards the improvement of the region’s infrastructure, as well as providing a catalyst for economic growth.”

“As major employer situated along the A19 corridor, around 500 of our employees use the tunnel during their daily commute.  We were delighted that the Nissan LEAF was chosen to mark this important regional milestone.”

The new vehicular tunnel is only the third in Britain to be built using immersed tube technology in the river section. The land tunnels built either side of the Tyne involved a variety of construction techniques, predominantly cut-and-cover tunnels as well as approximately 60 metres of Sprayed Concrete Lining, which enabled the tunnel to be built beneath major utility connections without disturbing them.

The first vehicles enter the new Tyne Tunnel at midnight Friday 25 February 2011. 

Local resident Lynn Uren, from East Howdon, was amongst the first to use the new tunnel. She said: “Before work on the tunnel began we were worried about how the construction would affect local people, but I think it’s gone really well. We’ve been kept up-to-date throughout the project by TT2, and we’ve been lucky enough to visit the construction site throughout the works to see the tunnel being built. I can’t believe how quickly it’s gone. It will make a huge difference to the area when both tunnels are open.”

A commemorative certificate was awarded to the first one hundred people to drive through the tunnel on its commissioning. George Johnson, from Jarrow, was one of the first through the tunnel. He has had an active interest in the New Tyne Crossing project since the planning stages of the scheme. George said: “This is a good night for the North East. Seeing the first new river crossing in years come into operation is tremendous, and I feel privileged to be one of the first to travel through it.”

Nicolas Caille, Project Managing Director for Bouygues Travaux Publics UK, the main design and build contractor for the new tunnel, was present to witness the first motorists using the new tunnel. He said: “I am delighted to see the tunnel accepting its first vehicles. Overall the works have gone very smoothly but we have faced some unexpected challenges along the way, as you might expect. So there is also an element of relief to see the project reach this stage. This has been a unique scheme and one that I have thoroughly enjoyed delivering.”

The tunnel forms a key part of the New Tyne Crossing project, which also includes the construction of new tolls plazas north of the Tyne, a restructured interchange south of the river, as well as the full refurbishment of the original vehicle tunnel.

In order to facilitate the refurbishment works the original tunnel closed to traffic after the new tunnel became fully operational. The refurbishment of the original tunnel is expected to take around ten months to complete, with both tunnels open to traffic by 2012. In the meantime the new tunnel will operate bi-directionally, offering one lane of traffic northbound and one lane of traffic southbound. Tolls remain the same as they have been since January 2008.

Trevor Jackson, Managing Director for TT2, the Concessionaire of the New Tyne Crossing project, said: “I am thrilled to be able to offer our customers this fantastic new tunnel. It’s smarter, safer, shorter and straighter than the original tunnel so even though we still only have one lane of traffic in each direction, I hope that people will enjoy the difference from day one.”

Motorists enter the new Tyne Tunnel for the first time.