Original tunnel workers step into the future to see tunnel’s transformation

10th November 2011

In the lead-up to its return to service, the people who built the first Tyne Tunnel have taken a tour of the refurbished structure to see how much it has changed.

Visitors from the 1960s workforce were amazed at the changes that have taken place within the familiar tunnel space, overhauled as part of the £260M New Tyne Crossing project.

During the 90-minute tour, they had the opportunity to take a close look at the original cast-iron rings, making up the lining of the tunnel. Guests were impressed with the condition the tunnel is in.

Stan Craig, of Whitley Bay, said: “I’ve found this visit fascinating. Considering this tunnel has been buried in the bedrock beneath the Tyne for more than forty years, it’s doing very well. There’s very little corrosion, and it seems to be fairly robust. We must have done a pretty good job back then!”

Stan held a vital role during construction of the first road tunnel in the 1960s. A surveyor for Mott Hay and Anderson, the consulting engineers, he was responsible for ensuring that the tunnels being bored south and north of the Tyne would meet in the middle.

Stan was delighted to have the chance to visit the tunnel during its refurbishment more than forty years later, to see firsthand its transformation.

He added: “In its day the Tyne Tunnel was groundbreaking in many ways. It was the longest tunnel to be built under compressed air, for a start.  It was a cutting edge facility.  The new look tunnel is continuing that tradition. I’m very impressed with the way the new escape passage has been designed in to the existing structure. It’s clever stuff!”

Paul Fenwick, project director for the Tyne and Wear Integrated Transport Authority, the Project Promoter, said: “It’s been a privilege to meet some of those involved in delivering the first vehicle tunnel. Without their efforts we wouldn’t be here today looking at the next phase of development for this important river crossing. I’m glad we’ve had the opportunity to bring them onto site and give them a sneak preview of the tunnel before it’s commissioned for use.”

Refurbishment of the original road tunnel marks the second phase of the New Tyne Crossing project, which saw a new road tunnel commissioned for use in February this year.

Trevor Jackson, managing director of TT2, the New Tyne Crossing Concessionaire, said: “The first road tunnel made a huge difference to Tyneside motorists when it opened in 1967, saving them a lengthy diversion through Newcastle to cross the river by bridge, or the inconvenience of waiting to use local ferry services. Around 4,000 vehicles a day used the tunnel back then.

“Today, despite construction works, we’re seeing closer to 38,000 each day. Hence the notorious queues. When both tunnels are up and running the capacity of the crossing will increase to almost 80,000 vehicles per day. This will transform traffic flow not only at the Tyne Tunnels site, but further afield across the region.”

The original road tunnel is expected to come into operation by December 2011.

ENDS

For media enquiries please contact Tamsin Greulich at TT2 on 0191 259 8189 or 07866 565 457.