After less than three years of construction, the new Tyne Tunnel was commissioned for public use at midnight on Friday.
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.
The new vehicular tunnel is only the third in Britain to be built using immersed tube technology in the river section.
The land tunnels built either side of the Tyne involved a variety of construction techniques, predominantly cut-and-cover tunnels as well as approximately 60m of sprayed concrete lining, which enabled the tunnel to be built beneath major utility connections without disturbing them.
Bouygues Travaux Publics UK managing director Nicolas Caille, the main design and build contractor for the new tunnel, was present to witness the first motorists using the new tunnel.
“Overall the works have gone very smoothly but we have faced some unexpected challenges along the way, as you might expect. So there is also an element of relief to see the project reach this stage. This has been a unique scheme and one that I have thoroughly enjoyed delivering.”
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.