Tyne Bridge restoration: Travel disruption could be halved but warnings of delays remain

Drivers have been warned to expect significant delays to their journeys while the Tyne Bridge is returned to its former glory. Credit: LDRS

Travel chaos during the restoration of the Tyne Bridge may last only half as long as previously feared, it has emerged.

Hugely disruptive lane closures that will slash the capacity of the Tyne Bridge during the landmark’s long-awaited refurbishment are now expected to be cut short.

Drivers from across the North East have been warned to expect significant delays to their journeys while the bridge, which is used by up to 70,000 vehicles a day, is returned to its former glory – with the major impact expected to ripple out to roads across the area.

Transport chiefs had previously cautioned that the vast maintenance project would require two of the bridge’s four lanes of traffic to be closed for the full four years of the scheme, so that engineers could safely carry out the works.

But it has now been announced that those 24/7 closures may now only last for a minimum of two years instead.

While that will offer some relief to those facing the prospect of years of heavy traffic congestion and businesses worried that their trade will suffer as a result, council bosses are still pleading with motorists to make plans now and find an alternative to car travel if they can.

Preparation work has been underway over recent months. Credit: Andrew Heptinstall Photography

When will disruption begin?

The Tyne Bridge will be reduced to one lane in each direction from Tuesday 2 April as the restoration work begins in earnest.

The start follows a protracted dispute over funding, before the Government finally confirmed earlier this month that it would release the more than £35m to allow the scheme to proceed.

Once the initial two years of constant lane closures are lifted, some temporary or overnight closures will still be required during the second half of the works.

Newcastle City Council leader Nick Kemp insisted that the city would be “very much open for business” despite the looming disruption.

He said: “The Tyne Bridge is not only an iconic structure for the city’s region, but also a major gateway to the city, used by tens of thousands of vehicles each day.

"We’ve campaigned hard to secure this funding and I am pleased that these vital works will get under way, particularly with the centenary fast approaching, but people need to realise that it will have an impact on their journeys.

“You will have seen lots of works taking place in the city centre as we gear up for the restoration programme, this was to help improve traffic flow and prioritise buses ahead of this next stage of works to help keep the city moving.

"Newcastle is very much open for business throughout the restoration period and we’re advising people to use public transport to minimise disruption as we carry out these crucial works to see our much-loved bridge returned to its former glory.”

What is the advice for travelling during the disruption?

Councils have urged people to make the switch from cars to public transport, walking or cycling when travelling to and from the city centre.

A new park and ride site is being set up next to the Metrocentre, while new safe cycle storage has also been promised in the city centre.

Major employers have been told to consider staggering their start and finish times to reduce the burden on the roads at peak hours, while drivers travelling across the region have been advised to avoid central Newcastle and Gateshead entirely and instead use the A1 or Tyne Tunnel to cross the river.

Gateshead Council leader Martin Gannon added: “We’re going to need everyone in the region who loves the bridge to do their bit to help us minimise the disruption that the restoration will cause to the transport network.

"We’re asking everyone to follow our travel advice, and make the switch to public transport or walking and cycling where possible, as we carry out this hugely important programme of work.”

An initial phase of the bridge’s restoration began last September, with scaffolding already installed around the Gateshead end of the crossing, but the main section of the refurbishment was dependent on the Department for Transport agreeing to release its majority share of the funding.

While an initial £35.2m from the Government has now been signed off, council officials are still waiting for confirmation that they will receive a further £6m that had been promised for the Tyne Bridge under Rishi Sunak’s Network North programme.

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