Plaque tribute to Tyne Tunnels champion

9th August 2013

Dignitaries, including the Mayor of South Tyneside, Councillor Ernest Gibson and Mayoress Patricia Ridley, and South Tyneside MPs Stephen Hepburn and Emma Lewell-Buck, gathered near the southern entrance of the Tyne Tunnels to pay tribute to the late Councillor Tom Hanson, who championed the New Tyne Crossing project.

Members of Councillor Hanson’s family attended the ceremony, which included the unveiling of a plaque on Howard Street Bridge over the A19 by the Mayor of South Tyneside Councillor Ernest Gibson.

The plaque was commissioned by the Tyne & Wear Integrated Transport Authority (TWITA), of which Councillor Hanson was a vice-chairman and chairman of its Tyne Tunnels Working Group, and by South Tyneside Council. Councillor Hanson represented Bede ward for many years.

Councillor Gibson said: “Tom was a valued colleague and a friend for over 20 years, deeply committed to Jarrow and highly respected as a Borough councillor and member for Bede ward.

“The success of the second tunnel – which has made a huge difference to the borough and the local economy – is a fitting tribute to his vision and commitment to the local community and the wider Tyne and Wear area.”

Stephen Hepburn, MP for Jarrow, said: “Tommy played a huge part in the New Tyne Crossing project and he always maintained his belief that this project would benefit the people of Jarrow and Tyne and Wear. 

“He was passionately committed to serving the people of Jarrow and always strived through hard work and endeavour to improve the lives of others.

“He was a good friend and a lovely man and it is absolutely fitting that Tommy’s work with the Tyne & Wear Integrated Transport Authority and as a Councillor in the Bede Ward is being commemorated.”

Councillor Hanson’s wife Phyllis said:  “My family and I would like to thank Tyne & Wear Integrated Transport Authority and South Tyneside Council for the memorial plaque dedicated to Tom.

“Tom was dedicated to his work both with the New Tyne Crossing and South Tyneside Council and we are delighted that his work over the years has been recognised and commemorated with this memorial plaque.”

Councillor David Wood, chairman of TWITA, said: “Tom had the difficult double task of being a member of the organisation promoting the New Tyne Crossing and of representing one of the wards most affected by the construction of the second vehicle tunnel.

“There was some local opposition to the New Tyne Crossing – captured in a cartoon caricature describing the project as Tommy’s Tunnel. He took it all in his stride and was proud to be recognised – even if it was by his opponents - as a champion of the scheme.

“He was always clear about the potential benefits of the New Tyne Crossing to the people of Jarrow and of Tyne & Wear, and always carried out his dual duties as a TWITA member and as a ward councillor with good humour and dignity.

“His death last year was a shock to everyone who had had the privilege of working with him and we wanted to show our appreciation, with South Tyneside Council, of the considerable contribution he made to local communities through his work with both organisations.”

Rachel Turnbull, CEO of New Tyne Crossing concessionaire TT2, said:

“Tom worked tirelessly to ensure that the people of South Tyneside were not overlooked during the construction of the second tunnel. He recognised the incredible potential the project had to transform this area, but he faced some tough challenges in realising this potential. I’m not sure everyone appreciates quite how much he did to ensure that local people were treated with consideration throughout the process.

“Tom was a key figure in the New Tyne Crossing project and his sudden death last year left everyone at the Tyne Tunnels deeply shocked and saddened.

We are delighted to see this plaque unveiled in his honour. It is a fitting tribute to a man who helped transform Tyneside.”

The wording on the plaque reads:

Councillor Tom Hanson (1943 - 2012)

To commemorate Councillor Tom Hanson, Member of South Tyneside Council, Member of ITA and champion of the New Tyne Crossing Project - which was known to many in Jarrow as “Tommy’s Tunnel” - from first plans in 1998 to the official opening in 2012.