Work on refurbishing tunnels under the river Tyne has been further delayed.
After the contractor GB Building Solutions went into administration, asbestos has been found in the Tyne Pedestrian and Cyclist tunnels.
It means the Grade II-listed tunnels, which run between Howdon and Jarrow, are now unlikely to re-open before the summer of 2017.
The free-to-use, timetabled shuttle bus and a Night Service for shift workers will continue to operate.
Alastair Swan, principal engineer for the tunnels’ owner, the North East Combined Authority (NECA), said: “The discovery of further asbestos was made during our inspection of the tunnels following the collapse of the original contractor, GB Building Solutions.
“We had been advised that they had completed the asbestos removal works.
“We are now going out to tender for the removal or encapsulation of the remaining asbestos.
“We expect the asbestos works to commence early in 2016.
“We are looking to complete the asbestos work as quickly as possible to enable us to continue the refurbishment works.”
“We continue to progress off-site works, including the manufacture of the new inclined elevators.
“We understand this setback will come as a blow to many tunnel users.
“We apologise for the inconvenience and ask for their continued patience and forbearance while we work to clean up the tunnels and restore this important pedestrian and cyclist link across the Tyne.”
The tunnels closed for refurbishment in May 2013.