Improvements planned for Tyne pedestrian and cycle tunnels
PLANS have been drawn up for £6m worth of improvements to the ageing Tyne pedestrian and cycle tunnels.
Next year the listed tunnels celebrate their 6oth birthday.
But the vertical lifts on both side of the tunnel at Howdon and Jarrow are operating well beyond their design life and three of the four escalators have broken down.
Funding of £500,000 is already in place to modernise the vertical lifts, with the Jarrow lift expected to be back in action in November while the Howdon lift will be taken out of service next month with a return date of next February.
On Thursday, the Tyne and Wear Integrated Transport authority will be asked to sanction another £6m in improvement works.
This would include the replacement of an escalator on each bank of the river by a “reclining” lift operating at a 45 degree angle.
The wooden escalators are believed to be the longest of their type in the world and English Heritage has raised the potential of long-term storage of the removed systems. The improvements would also include conservation work and better signage, upgrading the historic painting and tiling schemes, structural repairs and landscaping of the north bank entrance.
A recent survey has shown widespread ignorance of the existence of the tunnels, especially among young people.
Other findings include “great affection” for the tunnel among users who considered it part of their heritage, although women had security concerns, especially at night.
People also wanted better signage to the tunnels and integration with the Metro system.
A new green logo featuring the letter U has been designed for the tunnel and will be up for approval on Thursday. It is hoped that it will be included on Metro system maps.
English Heritage inspectors have also visited the tunnels to consider a request that they be upgraded from Grade II listing to Grade II-star.
The tunnels are considered to fit in with environmental and health aims of encouraging walking and cycling, and for access to the planned regeneration of the north bank of the Tyne from Walker in Newcastle to North Tyneside.
There were 244, 615 users of the tunnels last year – almost 50,000 more than 10 years ago.