Police given tunnel vision

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POLICE joined residents in a visit to the underground site of the new Tyne Tunnel.

Progress on the £260m project is due to open to traffic in a matter of weeks.

Sergeant Adrian Smiles, from North Shields neighbourhood policing team, said: “It was a good opportunity to see for ourselves what was going on underneath the surface.

“There’s been a huge amount of work taking place at the site so it was interesting to see just what had been happening.”

A group of local residents joined Sgt Smiles and Pc Ivan Hart and community support officer Kian Mokhtary to take a walk underground and see how the vast site had been transformed.

Construction of the tunnel began in 2008, with 30-metre deep trenches dug along the length of the crossing to accommodate the land-based tunnel, and four 90-metre long tunnel segments being built off site at Walker Dry Dock to create the river section.

The civil engineering aspects of the tunnel are now complete and attention has focused on the mechanical and electrical fittings.

The new tunnel is the first in the country to feature a state-of-the-art Fixed Fire Suppression System to protect motorists and the tunnel structure in case of fire.

The same safety system will be introduced to the original tunnel during a major refurbishment later this year, which will also see a separate escape passage built within the tunnel.

The new tunnel will open to traffic later this month, and will initially take traffic in both directions when the original tunnel closes for refurbishment.

Both tunnels will be operational by December 2011, with the new tunnel serving southbound traffic and the original vehicle tunnel serving northbound traffic.

Community Liaison Officer for Tyne Tunnel 2 James Hudson said: “From the outset we’ve tried to keep local residents fully informed about the project.

“We’ve organised several tours for local people and its great to be able to show them the final tests and fittings in the tunnel before its commissioned for use.”