Tees Tunnel: Ben Houchen behind call for fresh look at Hartlepool to Redcar underground link

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Fresh plans to create a Tees Tunnel linking Redcar and Hartlepool have been unveiled.

Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen is calling for the backing of a £1million study into the feasibility of the underground link this year.

The study would look into whether it is possible to build a tunnel link under the River Tees for motorists, pedestrians, cyclists and freight.

It will be considered by members of the Tees Valley Combined Authority (TVCA) later this month.

Redcar and Hartlepool are just 12 miles apart as the crow flies but motorists face a journey of 25 miles through Middlesbrough and Stockton, taking around 35 minutes.

Ben Houchen hopes the tunnel will cut Teesside journey times. Credit: PA

Lord Houchen believes the tunnel would cut journey times to two to three minutes, ease pressure on the A689 and A19 and offer better access to jobs for those living in the region.

Asked whether it would ever happen, Mr Houchen told ITV Tyne Tees: "This is it. We don't currently know.

"If this type of crossing could cost, say a hundred million pounds then I think that's eminently sensible for that type of infrastructure project. But if it cost ten billion pounds, that's a very different proposition. Now we just don't know."

The study would be funded by £1million from the TVCA transport fund and will assess the environmental impact and traffic movements. A bridge has previously been ruled out due to the impact on the shipping industry.

If a tunnel was found to be viable, a Development Consent Order (DCO) – used for major infrastructure projects – would then be drawn up and submitted to the Planning Inspectorate. If recommended, the final decision would rest with the Secretary of State.

“This would be an in-depth business case level piece of work to tell us whether it was viable, how much it would cost, timescales and if there were any obstacles,” Mr Houchen told the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

“There might be some things that we would face that we just don’t know yet because we haven’t done the survey work.

“It would also look at the feasibility of where it could go, how it connects into the trunk road on the south and how it connects into Seal Sands or Hartlepool in the north, depending on where it goes.”

The idea has been branded as a "gimmick" by some of Mr Houchen's political rivals - something he denies.

Chris McEwan, Labour candidate for Tees Valley Mayor, said: “We need a strategy that will deliver all across the Tees Valley, not just gimmicks in the run-up to an election. Our region desperately needs connecting, and investing in our roads, rail and bus networks will always be welcome and something I’ll prioritise as Mayor.”

The Tees Tunnel is not the only major transport project to be backed by Lord Houchen in recent weeks after the Tees Valley was allocated £978m of funding from the City Region Sustainable Transport Settlement, freed up by Rishi Sunak's controversial scrapping of the northern leg of HS2.

Money has already been lined up for a new bus and railway station at Teesside Park and an overhaul of the station at Teesside Airport. Further funding has also been pledged towards saving the Transporter Bridge.

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