Sunderland schoolgirl one of the first through the new Tyne Tunnel

Giselle Smith takes her tour of the new Tyne Tunnel control room
Giselle Smith takes her tour of the new Tyne Tunnel control room
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NISSAN’S new baby The Leaf led the way in the North East’s latest transport revolution.

The new Tyne Tunnel opened to rush-hour commuters for the first time today – but it was the Nissan Leaf which officially christened the new crossing in the early hours of Saturday morning.

Coun David Wood, chairman of the Tyne and Wear Integrated Transport Authority, South Tyneside Council leader Coun Iain Malcolm and elected Mayor of North Tyneside Linda Arkley were driven through the tunnel in a Leaf at the stroke of midnight.

The world’s first electric family car will be delivered to customers in the UK in the next few days and Nissan will start building the car at its Wearside plant in 2013.

Kevin Fitzpatrick, vice-president 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 a major employer situated along the A19 corridor, around 500 of our employees use the tunnel during the daily commute.

“We were delighted the Nissan Leaf was chosen to mark this important regional milestone.”

After the ceremonial opening by the Leafs, one of the first passengers through the new tunnel was Sunderland schoolgirl Giselle Smith.

To mark her historic journey, the 10-year-old Hill View Junior School pupil was also treated to a tour or the tunnel control room.

She said: “I was really excited to go through the tunnel. It looks much cleaner than the old one, and much smarter, with lights everywhere.

“The control room is really cool. I wish I had this many TVs at home!”.

Drivers may see little immediate change as the original tunnel is now closed for refurbishment for 10 months.