Transport chiefs slam 'unacceptable' delays over new lifts at Tyne Pedestrian and Cycle Tunnel

Transport bosses have slammed further delays to glass lifts at the Tyne Pedestrian and Cycle Tunnel after it was revealed works have been pushed back again.

Friday, 17th January 2020, 6:38 pm
Updated Tuesday, 21st January 2020, 3:03 am

Years of delays came to an end in August last year, when the historic crossing between Jarrow and Howdon welcomed visitors again.

New inclined lifts were expected to be installed in September to finish the wider refurbishment scheme, which is estimated to have cost more than £16 million.

After the deadline was pushed to December and then January 2020, it has been revealed the date has slipped back by another month.

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The Tyne Pedestrian and Cycle Tunnel

Transport bosses in the region have described the delays as “unacceptable.”

“This is the Italian company which sold us the lifts and we’re withholding funds from them while we sort this out,” Coun Gladys Hobson said.

“It’s completely unacceptable, this lift has been within storage for years and years, it’s been constructed, there was a balance issue, they got the balance issue sorted out.

“Now it’s the doors I understand amongst other things.

“One wonders what kind of future this glass lift is going to hold for us.”

She added: “I understand that once this is completed and signed off, we will have a local firm maintaining it.

“I can’t see it being any worse than the Italian firm has been so I look forward to that.”

The comments came during Thursday’s (January 16) meeting of the Joint Transport Committee Tyne and Wear Sub-Committee, which Coun Hobson chairs.

Visitors to the tunnel have previously been advised to use existing vertical lifts, however they can only hold two or three people with bicycles at a time.

A report prepared for councillors said new lifts need to be put forward for “acceptance and certification” before they can be opened to the public.

Transport bosses also confirmed work is ongoing and is expected to run into February.

Coun Amy Wilson, Cabinet Member for Environment and Transport on Sunderland City Council, also spoke out on the delays.

“The glass lift is just an ongoing issue that’s unacceptable really,” she said.

“We have been told on several occasions that it will be sorted by the next meeting and I agree that it’s unacceptable that this has gone on for so long.”

The tunnel first opened in 1951 as part of the Festival of Britain and took four years to build.

Costs for its refurbishment, which started in 2013, spiralled due various problems causing delays, from contractors going bust to the discovery of asbestos.

Last summer, project bosses pushed ahead with a partial opening, despite works on the new lifts awaiting completion.

Despite the lift delays, the tunnel continues to be well used by the public with thousands of visitors in recent months.

Between November and December last year, 22,330 people made the journey, including 15,911 pedestrians and 6,419 cyclists.