A MULTI-MILLION pound refurbishment of the Grade II-listed Tyne Pedestrian and Cyclist Tunnels between Howdon and Jarrow has been approved today (Thursday).
The Tyne & Wear Integrated Transport Authority gave the green-light for works which will include the replacement of two of the four escalators with an inclined lift.
The wooden escalators are original and thought to be the longest of their type in the world. They have now exceeded their design life and are becoming more difficult and expensive to maintain. Three of the four are currently out of service.
The plan is to keep two of the original escalators in situ and open their machinery to public view.
The plans have still to be approved by North Tyneside and South Tyneside Councils.
Transport Authority chairman Coun David Wood said: "It is pleasing to approve this investment in these times of financial constraint.
The refurbishment will ultimately be paid for by tolls raised at the vehicle tunnel so there is no cost to the council taxpayer."
Tenders for the refurbishment are expected to go out later this year with work on installing the inclined lifts expected to take place next year, the Tunnels' diamond jubilee.
Repairs to the vertical lifts in the Tunnels are currently underway and should be completed by February 2011.
In the meantime, the Transport Authority has laid on a shuttle bus service to help customers who need assistance to cross the river.
For more information visit www.tynepedestrianandcyclisttunnels.co.uk