Government blame Tyne Bridge restoration delays on late submission of paperwork by Newcastle Council

The Department for Transport’s (DfT) has not yet handed over more than £40m it has pledged towards the refurbishment of the rusted bridge. Credit: ITV

The Government has blamed the delays to the long-awaited Tyne Bridge restoration on the the late submission of paperwork by local authority officials.

The Department for Transport’s (DfT) has not yet handed over more than £40m it has pledged towards the refurbishment of the rusted bridge.

Newcastle City Council expected repairs to begin taking place early this year but said this is subject to the release of funds by the Government.

The Government have now made claims that local authority officials did not submit all of the required documentation needed for the scheme to be green lit until last month – saying it is still “ in the process of being assessed” in Whitehall.

That statement, was met with anger by Tyneside leaders on Friday, with Newcastle City Council insisting that the DfT has had their final business case for the Tyne Bridge revamp since July 2023 and only that the last minor pieces of requested clarification were submitted in November.

Newcastle City Council expected repairs to begin taking place early this year but say this is subject to the release of funds. Credit: ITV

Meanwhile, an MP has accused the Government of “crass neglect” towards what is one of the most recognisable symbols of the North East.

Gateshead MP Ian Mearns has raised the issue of the Tyne Bridge in Parliament three times this month, including during Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday.

He said the birdge was “instantly recognisable around the world as an emblem of Tyneside” and warned of “significant additional cost implications if funding does not come forward”.

There are worries that further delays to the repairs, the first major maintenance on the bridge for more than two decades, will result in the crossing’s dilapidated condition worsening even further and the cost of the project spiralling.

With the engineering works expected to take around four years to complete, a setback now could mean the Tyne Bridge will not be looking back to its best in time for its centenary celebrations in October 2028.

Mr Mearns said that he was yet to receive any reply from the DfT and accused the department of “crass neglect”.

The Labour MP added that the funding would have been delivered by now “if this was Lambeth Bridge, or Westminster, or Waterloo” – three London bridges within sight of the Houses of Parliament.

Credit: ITV

Responding to a plea from local council leaders Nick Kemp and Martin Gannon, the DfT said that it was only able to start to fully assess the Tyne Bridge scheme and progress its business case after receiving the last pieces of supporting information in December.

A spokesperson said: “Network North will see every penny of the £19.8bn committed to the Northern leg of HS2 reinvested in transport across the North, including the restoration of the Tyne Bridge in the North East.“

"Last month the council provided the final supporting documents required to progress the business case, which is in the process of being assessed."

Following years of campaigning by local authorities, the DfT announced in June 2022 that it would put £35.3m into a project to refurbish both the bridge and the Central Motorway.

And, under Rishi Sunak’s Network North pledges made after the scrapping of HS2’s northern leg, an uplift in funding has recently been promised to cover the full £41.4m budget of the scheme.

Civic centre sources in Newcastle said that the full business case was lodged with the DfT on July 10 last year and that they had sought to “speedily” answer any follow-up questions, the last of which was done on November 20.

A Newcastle City Council spokesperson said: “Since submitting our bid in 2019, we have campaigned hard to see the Tyne Bridge returned to its former glory.

"This bid was approved in June 2022, when we were given programme entry approval, subject to our Final Business Case being completed, and that was submitted in July 2023.

"In anticipation of the funds being released, we have scheduled the main bridge to get underway in early 2024, which is subject to Government releasing the funds.

"This is still outstanding.”

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