PRIVATE FINANCE bids were this week invited for the construction and operation of the new £139M Tyne tunnel.
Bidders are invited to come forward even though the project is still waiting for deputy prime minister John Prescott to grant it planning permission.
An invitation to tender notice was published last week and an open day for interested parties will be held on 1 April.
Client Tyne & Wear Passenger Transport Authority is seeking a concessionaire under a design build finance and operate deal.
Tunnels manager Peter Hedley said: 'Under the 30 year deal, no government financing will be included. All financing will come via road tolls.'
The 2.6km tunnel is intended to ease traffic jams that blight the A19 as it feeds through the existing two lane Tyne tunnel during rush hour.
The project involves construction of 2.6km of cut and cover tunnel, plus a 360m long immersed tube.
Under the contract, 98 staff from the existing tunnel will transfer over to the concessionaire, which will also take on the old tunnel plus the nearby cycle and pedestrian tunnels.