Behind the scenes photos show update on Tyne Bridge restoration work

The bridge will be completed in time for the landmark's centenary celebrations in October 2028. Credit: Andrew Heptinstall Photography

Official photographs have been released to show the ongoing restoration work to the region's iconic Tyne Bridge.

Work to restore the iconic Tyne Bridge to its former glory is underway to preserve the Grade II listed structure for future generations.

Operatives from Esh Construction are working within the tight confines of the 1.5m high bridge deck void, which is under the footway, to remove dirt, rust and pigeon excrement.

The preparation will provide a safe working environment for essential structural repairs to be carried out on the bridge hangers.

To access the void, operatives had to break out the footway surfacing and lift the bolted-down steel buckle plates on the east footway.

Within the scaffolding adjacent to the Gateshead tower, more cleaning is taking place to clear the steelwork of foreign matter and hazardous substances before grit blasting can take place to remove over 96 years’ of previous paint coatings.

Once this is complete, the council says repairs will be made and then repainting can take place.

Due to its Grade II listed status, the paint colour used will be British Standard BS14C39 or ‘Greenwood’, which is a colour as close to the original as possible (British Standard BS4800).

Behind the fencing on the east footway, operatives break out the tarmac to access the steel buckle plates. Credit: Andrew Heptinstall Photography

It is expected to take up to 12 months to complete the structural repairs to the east side of the bridge deck, before moving on to the west side of the bridge to carry out similar works. Once both sides are complete the emphasis will move onto the main arch.

The restoration programme has been planned over a four-year period, with parts of the bridge to be scaffolded in around 20 phases.

Each section of scaffolding will be removed once completed to maintain the required loading capacity.

Dirt, rust and bird feaces are among the substances which must be cleaned before repair and re-painting works can take place. Credit: Andrew Heptinstall Photography

During the work, in order to carry out the renovations safely and to protect the workforce and the public, the bridge has been reduced to one lane in each direction, effectively halving the capacity of the route at peak hours.

The lane restrictions will be in place for a minimum of two years as the iconic structure is fully restored.

Council teams are monitoring the impact of the restoration works on the wider network, and so far, traffic seems to be coping well with maximum delays of up to 20 minutes at peak time on the approaches to the Tyne Bridge, as people heed the travel advice and make alternative arrangements.

Councillor Marion Williams, cabinet member for a Connected, Clean City at Newcastle City Council said: “This is the first phase of the restoration works to our iconic Tyne Bridge, with operatives working behind the scaffolding and within the footway voids on the main bridge deck.

“It’s a tight squeeze for the those working within the narrow bridge void as cars travel above, but we’re making good progress. We know how important this work is to the people of the region and we will be keeping you fully updated throughout the restoration period.

“We’d like to thank everyone who has followed the travel advice, and please continue to do that by using alternative routes, taking the park and ride options, or making the switch to public transport, to help keep Tyneside moving.

“It is a long four-year programme, but these vital works are needed to preserve this much-loved landmark for the future, and we can’t wait to see it shining in the Tyneside sky again.”

It’s a tight squeeze in the bridge deck void where operatives are undertaking a full clean-up operation. Credit: Andrew Heptinstall Photography

Councillor John McElroy, cabinet member for the environment and transport at Gateshead Council, said: “It’s great to see this vital project progressing well. There has been a lot of understanding about the vital nature of the restoration, and we are grateful that people are listening to the travel advice and keeping the transport network moving.”

Stephen McClean, Special Projects Construction Manager at Esh Construction, commented: “We were eager to get started on the restoration and have hit the ground running within the first month.

“A lot of the work we are doing isn’t visible at this stage to members of the public as it takes place behind the encapsulated hoarding as well as in the bridge deck void.

“As people drive, walk or wheel across the bridge, our team are working within confined space conditions which only reach a maximum height of 1.5 metres, and in many sections of the bridge deck void where we clamber and crawl over beams, joints and pipework, the space becomes even more cramped.

“We are keen to share behind the scenes updates as much as possible throughout the restoration.”

Confined space entry shown by one of the operatives on site where rope access has to be used to enter the bridge deck void safely. Credit: Andrew Heptinstall Photography

The full £32m programme of works to the Tyne Bridge includes steelwork repairs, grit blasting and re-painting, concrete repairs, drainage improvements, stonework and masonry repairs, bridge deck waterproofing and resurfacing, parapet protection and bridge joint replacement.

A number of improvements to public transport, walking and cycling routes have been put in place to encourage people to use these forms of travel to help ease traffic congestion.

People travelling across the region are advised to avoid going through the centre of Newcastle and Gateshead and to stay on the major trunk roads and use other river crossings such as the A1, A19 Tyne Tunnel and Scotswood Bridge.

The current programme of works will see lane restrictions in place for a minimum of two years, with further temporary lane closures and overnight closures scheduled for the remaining two years of restoration works.

The four-year programme is expected to be complete in Summer 2028, ahead of the bridge’s centenary in October of that year.

The Tyne Bridge restoration is funded by the UK Government, as well as money from both Newcastle City Council and Gateshead Council.

The two councils still await confirmation of the remaining £6 million which was announced as part of the Network North plan in October.

The Tyne Bridge is used by up to 70,000 vehicles a day.

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