MOTORISTS got to see the new Tyne Tunnel last weekend when it officially opened to the public, nearly three years after the start of its construction.
Built as part of the £260m New Tyne Crossing project, the new road tunnel links East Howdon north of the Tyne with Jarrow in the south, and upon completion of the project will complete the dualling of the A19.
Council dignitaries were on hand to see the new tunnel opened and guests were driven through in the “2011 European Car of the Year”, the all electric Nissan Leaf.
North Tyneside’s Elected Mayor, Mrs Linda Arkley, said: “This a fantastic milestone for the region, which is the result of a lot of hard work and a great deal of commitment by all the region’s councils, and the whole team who have completed a tremendous feat of engineering.
“This tunnel is about much more than improving the experience for motorists. It will strengthen the region’s transport network and make us an increasingly attractive area for business and further investment, which will benefit the people and communities on both sides of the river.”
Resident Lynn Uren, who lives in East Howdon, was also amongst the first to use the new tunnel.
She said: “Before work on the tunnel began we were worried about how the construction would affect local people, but I think it’s gone really well.
“We’ve been kept up-to-date throughout the project by TT2, and we’ve been lucky enough to visit the construction site throughout the works to see the tunnel being built.
“I can’t believe how quickly it’s gone. It will make a huge difference to the area when both tunnels are open.”
A commemorative certificate was awarded to the first one hundred people to drive through the tunnel on its commissioning.
The tunnel forms a key part of the New Tyne Crossing project, which also includes the construction of new tolls plazas north of the Tyne, a restructured interchange south of the river, as well as the full refurbishment of the original vehicle tunnel.
In order to facilitate the refurbishment works the original tunnel closed to traffic after the new tunnel became fully operational.
The refurbishment of the original tunnel is expected to take around ten months to complete, with both tunnels open to traffic by 2012.
In the meantime the new tunnel will operate bi-directionally, offering one lane of traffic northbound and one lane of traffic southbound and tolls remain the same as they have been since January 2008.
Trevor Jackson, Managing Director for TT2, the Concessionaire of the New Tyne Crossing project, said: “I am thrilled to be able to offer our customers this fantastic new tunnel.
“It’s smarter, safer, shorter and straighter than the original tunnel so even though we still only have one lane of traffic in each direction, I hope that people will enjoy the difference from day one.”