Chiefs halt plans for controversial 'flyover' at Tilesheds rail crossing after outcry
Controversial proposals for a ‘road-over-rail’ bridge are set to be put on hold.
Next week, South Tyneside Council’s ruling cabinet will be updated on feasibility studies and the next steps for the potential project in East Boldon.
The council has been investigating the viability of the bridge scheme in response to a decision by Network Rail to install full barriers at Tile Shed Lane and Boldon Lane level crossings.
The existing half barriers are scheduled for complete renewal to improve safety but as full barriers take longer to operate, council chiefs have said increased barrier downtime would cause traffic delays and congestion on the borough’s road network.
After considering several potential options, the council concluded that a bridge option was the only viable alternative – with the road infrastructure project allowing travel over the rail lines and replacing the existing level crossings.
A council public engagement process began in September last year and as of February 12, 2021, around 159 responses had been received from residents- with 140 in opposition and 19 in support.
Concerns included environmental impacts, fears the scheme was linked to future housing sites and questions about the validity of Network Rail’s claims on safety and the timings of a full barrier system.
A report on the future of the project is due to be debated at a meeting of the council’s cabinet on March 17.
Council chiefs will be asked to “pause” any further feasibility and design work on the bridge option until further notice.
Councillor Mark Walsh, cabinet member for housing and transport, explained: “The council commissioned a feasibility study into an alternative to the full barriers because we have a statutory duty to investigate and mitigate for potential congestion on the highway network, as well as taking steps to prevent and reduce accidents.
“Having considered the issues raised by early feasibility work and residents’ comments, and in order to fully address all their concerns, we would have to carry out an Environmental Impact Assessment, which would involve proceeding with the detailed design process and further financial commitment.
“We would also need to carry out extensive traffic modelling and the long-term impact of Covid on future traffic levels is very unclear, so it is not currently possible to factor this into any new analysis.
“These are issues that will affect any future decision around the bridge option, and they can’t be quantified or modelled at this point.
“With this in mind, it is prudent to pause all further feasibility work into the bridge option.”
The move to pause the feasibility works, if approved, would allow Network Rail to proceed with detailed design and programming works for the full barrier system from 2024 onwards.
According to a report prepared for councillors, the council’s bridge option will be put on hold “until such time that the need for a bridge is better understood.”
This will need to include all verified evidence and data, including data about future expected traffic levels and public transport use, to allow the cabinet to make a “full and informed decision at a point in the future.”
In addition, further public consultation would inform any future decision on a bridge option, which would also be subject to the council’s planning process.
Next week’s cabinet meeting starts at 4pm and will be broadcast live on the council’s YouTube channel.
For more information, visit: www.southtyneside.gov.uk/article/60650/Upcoming-committee-meetings