PLANNING permission has been granted to allow a £4m refurbishment of the Grade II-listed Tyne Pedestrian and Cyclist Tunnels between Howdon and Jarrow.
Work is expected to start in spring 2012 and take around a year to complete.
The biggest change will be the replacement of two of the original escalators with inclined lifts.
The remaining two escalators will be opened up to public view and illuminated with feature lighting.
Coun Tom Hanson, vice-chairman of the Tyne & Wear Integrated Transport Authority (TWITA), owners of the tunnels, hailed the planning approval as the heralding of a new era for the crossings.
“This is tremendous news,” he said.
“The tunnels have served this part of Tyneside well for more than 60 years but in recent times they have suffered equipment breakdowns and have looked their age.
“Three of the four escalators are now permanently out of service
“As the tunnels are Grade II-listed we have had to seek Listed Building Consent from North Tyneside and South Tyneside councils to enable us to do the works necessary to improve them for users.
“This consent has now been received and I believe we have achieved an excellent balance between conserving the historic structures and improving the experience for the increasing numbers of pedestrians and cyclists who use the tunnels for crossing the river.”
The tunnels were opened in 1951.
At their peak, around 20,000 journeys were made through them every day.
Today, around 20,000 journeys are made through the tunnels every month.
For more information visit www.tynepedestrianandcyclisttunnels.co.uk