Golden anniversary for iconic Tyne Tunnels

An iconic transportation structure is celebrating a special anniversary on Thursday.

The Tyne Tunnels are celebrating their golden anniversary since the Royal opening of the first vehicle tunnel on October 19, 1967.

A car makes a trip through the newly opened Tyne Tunnel in October 1967.

A car makes a trip through the newly opened Tyne Tunnel in October 1967.

The tunnels, which pass under the River Tyne to provide a link on the A19 between York and Northumberland, are seen as a major feat of engineering and infrastructure.

The first tunnel, now the northbound tunnel, is 1,650 metres long and more than 30 metres below the river.

Engineer FW Chalmes first came up with the idea of an under river crossing in the 1920s, planning a tunnel that would house an electric monorail under the Tyne with a wider tunnel to allow cars and buses to travel by rail.

Prior to the tunnel opening, commuters needed to travel seven miles up river to cross via bridge, or to use the Tyne ferry.

Construction takes place inside the Tyne Tunnel.

Construction takes place inside the Tyne Tunnel.

The first vehicular Tyne Tunnel was opened by Her Majesty the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh in a ceremony that lasted two and a half hours.

Once Her Majesty had declared the tunnel open, there followed a 21 Gun Royal Salute, fired by a battery of the Royal Artillery (Volunteers). She then travelled through the tunnel to greet the public waiting at the southern side.

The Tyne Tunnels have come a long way in the past 50 years, including the opening of a second vehicular tunnel in 2011, allowing for a dedicated northbound and southbound crossing.

The first road crossing has undergone significant modernisation to ensure it meets the European safety standards, and is fitted with safety equipment to ensure it can run all day, every day. Lined in cast iron, it has a drainage system, fire safety equipment, ventilation, and cameras to monitor the traffic.

How the Tyne Tunnels look now.

How the Tyne Tunnels look now.

Ron Henderson, Tunnel Manager at TT2, said: “The Tyne Tunnels are an iconic part of the North East, and have been for 50 years.

“In that time, we have helped millions of people commute across the river conveniently and safely.

“The Tunnel has changed a lot since it first opened, and has changed with the times.

“The tollbooths used to be staffed and it cost 2s 6d to cross. Now we have an entirely automated system which is a lot quicker.

Her Majesty The Queen at the opening of the Tyne Tunnel in October 1967.

Her Majesty The Queen at the opening of the Tyne Tunnel in October 1967.

“We hope that the local community on both sides of the Tyne will join us in celebrating this big birthday for the Tyne Tunnel. We’re excited to see what the next 50 years holds for the region.”