In the beginning

The original tunnel was built using compressed air to cope with poor ground conditions and was opened by HM Queen Elizabeth II in October 1967.

The original toll for cars was 2s 6d (12.5p). It had a two-way capacity of 25,000 vehicles per day (vpd) and soon after opening recorded 5,000 vpd.

Her Majesty The Queen opens the original Tyne Tunnel 1967
The 1967 tunnel was built using compressed air
The 1967 Tyne Tunnel

Usage grew and reached 34,000 vpd in the mid-1990s, causing severe delays to users particularly at peak times.

The tunnel’s owner, the Tyne & Wear Integrated Transport Authority (TWITA), with the agreement of all the local authorities in Tyne & Wear, decided that increasing road capacity across the Tyne would provide the biggest economic boost.

Research was undertaken to identify the best site for a crossing and whether it should be a bridge or a tunnel. The favoured location was next to the Tyne Tunnel and the recommendation was that a second tunnel should be built.

In 1998, TWITA, in partnership with the riparian local authorities of North Tyneside and South Tyneside, begin planning the scheme, identifying the land required and liaising with landowners and statutory bodies.

In 1999, a team of advisers, led by international consulting engineers Arup, was gathered to develop the scheme which was named the New Tyne Crossing. As the Government declined to fund the scheme, TWITA had to attract private finance to deliver the scheme. In return, whoever was appointed to design and build the scheme would also have the concession to operate the tunnels for 30 years, receiving a proportion of the toll income.

It was also decided to construct the second vehicle tunnel using immersed tube technology and cut-and-cover techniques rather than boring through the ground, which was how the original tunnel was constructed. Ground conditions at the site were so poor that the original tunnel had to be built using compressed air to keep the water out of the excavation and this caused some long term health issues for some of the work force. The chosen construction method for the new tunnel avoids this possibility and was also approximately 20% cheaper than a bored tunnel.