Drivers facing FOUR YEARS of delays on the Tyne Bridge as inspection of Newcastle-Gateshead crossing reveals major repairs and restoration project will take twice as long as originally predicted
The rusting Tyne Bridge is in an even worse state of decay than was feared – and its much-needed restoration could take up to four years.
After a long-awaited £41 million revamp of the North East icon was confirmed earlier this year, investigations now have revealed that the famous crossing is in need of more extensive repairs than originally anticipated.
The discovery means the project could last twice as long as planned, taking up to four years, rather than two.
And regional leaders have confirmed the extended revamp will be more disruptive to the tens of thousands of drivers who cross the Tyne Bridge every day.
The Grade II* listed landmark will have to be reduced to one lane of traffic in either direction during the works, potentially meaning years of congestion chaos on a key route into Newcastle city centre which carries 70,000 vehicles daily.
Full details of what extra repairs are needed have not yet been announced, but it is understood the cost of the project should still be covered by the £41.4 million package already agreed.
However, the expected start date for the maintenance work has been pushed back to late next year – meaning the potential completion date could run very close to the bridge’s 100th anniversary, in 2028.
Cllr Jane Byrne, Newcastle City Council’s cabinet member for transport, said: “This is a challenging and complex project, due to the sheer size of the bridge, its age and Grade II* listed status, protecting the kittiwake colony from disturbance and the massive scope of work required – which isn’t just the sizeable task of painting it – but a full restoration programme to see the bridge returned to its former glory.
“Early timelines show this could be four years, but we will be working to complete the work hopefully sooner, and we will be working with other authorities and public transport providers to have measures in place to mitigate the impact to the travelling public.”
Newcastle and Gateshead councils said shutting a lane of traffic in either direction during the major restoration would be required to carry the work out safely and protect workers.
But transport chiefs are also exploring “a number of mitigation measures” to ease any congestion – including promoting alternative routes and improving public transport.
Gateshead’s transport chief, Cllr John McElroy, added: “The impact for our transport network of the work required on the Tyne Bridge is going to be very challenging for everyone.”
A £41.4 million investment package to restore both the Tyne Bridge and the Central Motorway was confirmed this summer, with the Government eventually committing more than £35 million towards the scheme after years of pleading from North East leaders.
Inspection works have been taking place since then to assess the true condition of the bridge, which has not undergone any major maintenance for more than two decades.
Engineers are now finalising the details of the refurbishment works and their expected cost, before submitting that to the Department for Transport so funding can be released.
The major project will include steelwork repairs, full grit blasting and repainting, concrete repairs, drainage improvements, stonework and masonry repairs, bridge deck waterproofing and resurfacing, parapet protection and bridge joint replacement.