Tunnel work is delayed as company goes into administration

Cycle and Pedestrian Tunnel at North Shields.

Cycle and Pedestrian Tunnel at North Shields.

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Work to refurbish an historic tunnel has been hit by further delays.

A £7m project to bring the Tyne Pedestrian and Cyclist Tunnels up-to-date has been hit after the main contractor went into administration with the loss of 350 jobs – 95 in Longbenton.

While we are committed to finishing this important project, this unfortunate development will inevitably delay the completion date.

North East Combined Authority

The Grade II-listed structure was closed in May 2013 for the project to begin.

But tunnel owners have been left trying to find alternative arrangements after GB Group Holdings Limited and GB Building Solutions went into administration.

It now means the anticipated re-opening of the tunnel, which links Howdon to Jarrow, could be delayed until next year.

A spokesperson for the North East Combined Authority, owners of the tunnels, said: “While we are committed to finishing this important project, this unfortunate development will inevitably delay the completion date.

“We are reviewing our contractual arrangements and will make a further announcement as soon as we are able to.

“We expect the tunnels to remain closed until late 2015 early 2016.

“In the meantime, the shuttle bus and Night Service which enable pedestrians and cyclists to use this vital river crossing will continue until the tunnels are re-opened.”

Bosses at GB Group Holdings and GB Building Solutions have been forced to cut 350 from its workforce, including 95 at its office on Balliol Business Park, in Longbenton.

GB Group called in administrators from BDO after ‘trading and cash flow issues’, including ‘three substantial claims’ on contracts.

It is the third delay to hit the tunnels project.

An asbestos discovery pushed the initial closure estimate of one year further back.

The refurbishment includes the replacement of two of the original four escalators with inclined lifts and the replacement of the tunnels’ ageing mechanical and electrical systems.

The two remaining escalators, which are original and of historical significance, will be opened up to public view and illuminated with feature lighting.

New lighting, CCTV, control and communications systems will also be installed, in addition to carrying out repairs to the tunnel structure itself and to the historic finishes within the tunnel such as the tiling and panelling.