Call for legal action against Italian firm over Tyne Pedestrian Tunnel delays
A leading councillor has called for legal action against Italian contractors yet to complete the refurbishment of the Tyne Pedestrian Tunnel.
Gladys Hobson claimed that Maspero Elevatori have “used every excuse in the book” to avoid finishing the long-overdue works.
The South Tyneside councillor told a transport committee meeting “we need to look at some kind of litigation” against the lift engineers, who are responsible for the one remaining aspect of the tunnel’s refit – the installation of two new inclined glass lifts.
But that target date was missed and has kept slipping back ever since, with Maspero workers not having returned to Tyneside since January due to Covid-19 travel restrictions.
It was revealed this week that the entire tunnel refurbishment project, which should have been completed in 2015, is now more than £10million over budget – with earlier delays blamed on asbestos and a contractor going bust.
The total cost of the renovation stood at £16.99 million on August 31 this year, way above the initial £6.9million budget for the project, and it will cost an estimated £350,000 to complete the remaining 10 weeks of lift works.
Coun Hobson, who chairs the North East Joint Transport Committee’s Tyne and Wear sub-committee, said: “Maspero have not done us any favours. They have been not good from the beginning.
“They are using the excuses of Covid now, but this has been going on for some time and I am very displeased with the systems… I am so frustrated by it.
“It so annoys me because it has gone on for so long and they have used every excuse in the book not to come and fix this lift.
“I think the time has come, we need to look at some kind of litigation because it cannot go on forever and ever and ever.”
Fiona Bootle, Tyne Tunnels manager for Transport North East, said that Maspero currently had a “valid” reason for not being on site due to the pandemic, but told councillors to “be assured we are looking at all options to try and ensure those lifts are completed as soon as possible”.
She said that the work was now “unlikely” to be done until 2021 as new lockdowns are imposed around Europe.
“Everyone is very dispirited about that lack of progress because we wanted those lifts operational,” she added.
“We are pleased that the tunnels themselves have managed to open without the inclined lifts, but it is disappointing that we are having to suffer more delays which for most of 2020 have been down to coronavirus travel restrictions.”
The Local Democracy Reporting Service has attempted to contact Maspero Elevatori for a response.
The pedestrian and cycle tunnel has been shut since October 24 due to failures with its two vertical lifts – and is set to remain closed over the weekend.
The north lift has now been repaired, but a part for the south lift now needs to be rebuilt off-site.
Ms Bootle said that transport bosses decided that social distancing rules meant it was not safe to open the tunnel with only one or neither of the vertical lifts functioning.
A statement on the tunnel’s website added: “Due to ongoing repairs of the vertical lifts, the Tyne Pedestrian and Cyclist Tunnels remain closed at this time.
“The north lift repair has been completed, however the south lift required a part to be reconstructed off-site and associated repair work is ongoing. The facility will likely remain closed across this coming weekend to allow for works to take place.
“Users should check the website (www.tynepedestrianandcyclisttunnels.co.uk) for up-to-date information. We apologise for any inconvenience caused to members of the public.
“Following user requests, the shuttle bus and cycle trailer service has been extended and will now operate from 6am (6am-10pm) during the closure. Members of the public can access this shuttle service from bus stops located at Tyne Street, Jarrow and Tyne View Terrace, Howdon.”
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