A new tunnel for Tyne & Wear is essential to alleviate daily traffic jams, improve the environment and increase safety. Alan Sparks spells out why the new Tyne tunnel is needed.
Like the strip of stuttering local football team Newcastle United, the issue of the construction of a new Tyne tunnel is black and white.
Without it, locals must endure rush hour traffic jams that can leave cars bogged down for up to an hour. With it, this part of the city will flow free.
The single bore, two lane tunnel east of the city centre is one of the north east's major traffic bottlenecks. Immediately to the north and south is the dual carriageway A19, which squeezes 34,000 vehicles per day into the tunnel. Traffic is forecast to rise to 43,000 vehicles per day by 2021. The existing Tyne Tunnel was originally designed to handle just 25,000 vehicles a day The tunnel bottleneck restricts trade and local amenity, increases noise and air pollution from standing traffic and has spawned rat runs through the streets of Jarrow and East Howdon. The prospect of it being axed in July, when Chancellor Gordon Brown's comprehensive spending review coincides with the government's revised 10 year spending plan to threaten vital infrastructure development across the country, is unthinkable.
'This tunnel would have a phenomenal impact for the people of Jarrow and East Howdon, ' says Arup associate Andrew Kirby who along with Posford Haskoning is advising the Tyne & Weir Passenger Transport Executive on the scheme. 'Seventy per cent of traffic starts or ends within Tyneside.'
The road tunnel is 11km east of the city centre and so separate from the road bridges that criss-cross the Tyne. There is no other road crossing of the river nearby.
If built, the new £139M immersed tube tunnel under the Tyne will also improve safety for motorists.
The existing two lane tunnel carries vehicles in both directions, increasing the likelihood of an accident and greatly reducing chances of escape.
Construction of the second tunnel would spread four lanes of traffic between the two crossings, allowing each to carry traffic in one direction only, boosting safety as well as doubling capacity.
Having the new tunnel would also mean essential safety work on the existing tunnel could be done more easily.
The project is to be let as a 30 year design build finance operate scheme funded by tolls.
Road tolls for cars will be increased from £1 up to around £1.50 in order to pay for the tunnel. Preparations are already being made to anticipate an early decision. Invitations for bidders were advertised last week.
The locals are used to waiting for success. The feverishly supported Magpies have failed to win a top division title since the days of Hughie Gallacher in 1927.
Plans for a second tunnel have been around for less than 77 years but with a public inquiry completed last May, all involved are now anxiously awaiting a decision. The ball has been in deputy prime minister John Precott's court since September.
After six months it is time he made up his mind.