Tyne Bridge renovation: Further delay to promised Government funds would be 'disastrous for region'

The main phase of works to refurbish the Tyne Bridge are due to begin in 2024 but Newcastle and Gateshead councils are still waiting for the funding to arrive. Credit: PA

Further delays to the Government handing over million of pounds promised for the restoration of the Tyne Bridge would be "disastrous for the region", a transport chief has said.

The Department for Transport (DfT) announced it would pay for the bulk of the complete refurbishment 18 months ago but local councils are still waiting for its final sign-off and for the funding to be delivered.

With work on the main phase of the project set to get underway in early 2024, Councillor Martin Gannon, Chair of the North East Joint Transport Committee, told ITV Tyne Tees that the disruption risks being made worse if the funding does not come through soon.

"We've had to commit to contracts, this is a major project that will take four years and we want to cut down on the disruption," he explained. "If it is put off, it will have further disruption on Christmases and the Great North Run.

"We need to start the work as early as possible in January. If it slips it means it will slip into another year of disruption and it would be disastrous for the region."

  • Martin Gannon tells ITV Tyne Tees that further delays would have serious consequences for the region

The Chief Executives of Newcastle City Council and Gateshead Council have written to Transport Secretary Mark Harper about the delay, stressing there could be serious consequences for the project if the funding does not come before Christmas.

The DfT said on Friday 15 December that “details related to funding will be confirmed in due course” but local officials say the bridge risks deteriorating quicker and costs spiralling if it is not delivered as soon as possible.

The Tyne Bridge requires significant structural repairs and a complete refurbishment has been a priority for local leaders in recent years.

The Government initially announced in June 2022 that it would put £35.3m into a project to refurbish both the bridge and the Central Motorway.

However inflated prices and the fact that the bridge is in a worse state of disrepair than was originally thought have already seen the estimated cost of its restoration jump by almost £12m.

An uplift in funding was later promised to cover the full £41.4m budget under Rishi Sunak's Network North pledges but the rise in costs has meant that the scale of the planned works on Central Motorway have been reduced.

Initial works, funded by the council, have taken place on the Gateshead side of the bridge. The main phase is still expected to get underway early next year but an official start date is yet to be announced.

They are expected to result in severe disruption with engineers having to shut two out of four lanes on a route that carries up to 70,000 vehicles per day.

It is expected that the project will take four years to complete. Credit: NCJ MEDIA

Alastair Swan, principal engineer at Newcastle City Council, told councillors on Thursday last week that he “can’t envisage” the funding coming through before 2023 ends.

He warned: “As time goes by, the condition of the structure deteriorates and the costs go up.”

He added that, because of the uncertainty over a start date, both Newcastle and Gateshead councils had delayed a public information drive about the engineering works, urging drivers to change their travel plans to avoid the expected traffic jams.

A DfT spokesperson told the Local Democracy Reporting Service on Friday: “As part of Network North, we’ve committed to improving the Tyne Bridge and A167 Central Motorway in the North East, subject to necessary approvals.

"We will discuss individual schemes with local authorities, and details related to funding will be confirmed in due course.”

It is hoped the Tyne Bridge project will be completed by 2028 in time to celebrate the bridge’s centenary.

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