NORTH EAST transport offi-cials were this week expected to invite formal bids for the £185M second Tyne tunnel even though the project is subject to a legal challenge.
Tyne & Wear Passenger ransport Executive (PTE) said that it had made the decision so that it could get work started as soon as the outcome of the challenge was known.
The second tunnel will relieve the existing - and congested - two-lane, single bore structure which carries the A19 under the River Tyne. The road narrows at the tunnel from dual to single carriageway.
A local resident has lodged the legal challenge, questioning the arguments behind transport secretary Alistair Darling's cision to grant the project planning permission last July.
The hearing on the legal allenge 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 new tunnel.
They are: Bouygues /HBOS/ HSBC, Connect North East (Balfour Beatty/Volker Stein), and T4 (Edmund Nuttall/ Mowlem/Vinci).
Tender invitations are expected to go out this week.
The bid deadline is early August.
Tyne & Wear said it would cuss all three proposals before deciding whether to choose one or more preferred bidders.
The transport executive said that it was also still deciding whether to seek private finance for the whole project or whether to borrow some of the cost of the project itself.