AN INVITATION for formal bids for the £185M second Tyne tunnel was expected last month, even though the project is subject to a legal challenge.
Tyne & Wear Passenger Transport Executive (PTE) said it had made the decision so it could get work started as soon as the outcome of the legal challenge was known.
The second tunnel will relieve the congested single bore as it narrows from dual carriageway to carry the A19 under the River Tyne.
A local resident has lodged a legal challenge to transport secretary Alistair Darling's decision to grant the project planning permission last July. The hearing is scheduled for 5 April although it may be some time before a ruling is made.
Three consortia are shortlisted to design, build, finance and operate the tunnel: Bouygues/HBOS/ HSBC, Connect North East (Balfour Beatty/Volker Stein) and T4 (Edmund Nuttall/Mowlem/Vinci).
Tender invitations were due to go out last month, for a bid deadline of early August.
Tyne & Wear PTE said it would discuss all three proposals before deciding whether to choose one or more preferred bidders. It was also still deciding whether to seek private finance for the whole project or borrow some of the cost itself.