Calls to fix rust on Tyne Bridge after Great North Run
North East leaders have repeated urgent calls for funding to restore the Tyne Bridge, after watching the Great North Run highlight its dilapidated state.
The annual sight of runners crossing the famous bridge while the Red Arrows soar overhead is one of the defining images of the region.
But participants in the half marathon’s 40th anniversary year got an up-close look at just how faded and rusted the Geordie icon has become.
A bid was lodged by Newcastle City Council, backed by other key names from across the region, to the Government’s Levelling Up Fund in June for £18m that would pay for the Tyne Bridge’s first major maintenance in 20 years, ahead of its centenary in 2028.
News of whether that has been successful is expected this autumn and local politicians say that Sunday’s race has showcased once again just how bad a state the grade II* listed structure is in.
Gateshead Council leader Martin Gannon said: “I saw a lot of comments on Facebook over the weekend with people saying what a fabulous run it was, but what a mess and a disgrace the bridge has become.
“We have put bids in and we are urging the government to come up with the funding to bring it back to its former glory.
“The Newcastle-Gateshead skyline has changed enormously over the 40 years of the Great North Run – with the Sage, the Baltic, and all the redevelopment along the Tyne.
“But in the last 20 years the bridge has deteriorated considerably. It needs to be restored, particularly with the centenary coming up, and this is an absolute priority for our local authorities.”
A separate £40m bid to pay for a vast refurbishment of both the Tyne Bridge and the Central Motorway was submitted to the government in summer 2019 by Transport for the North and is also awaiting approval.
But so desperate are local officials to get the bridge looking like its true self once more, the council decided to apply to the Levelling Up Fund too and offer to put in £2m of its own money.
Coun Nick Forbes, leader of Newcastle City Council, said: “The Tyne Bridge is one of our most iconic landmarks and seeing the thousands of runners going across it during the Great North Run is always a proud moment for our city.
“While the current appearance of the bridge is not good, it’s important people realise that this is about much more than a coat of paint – the bridge requires a major overhaul that will require a level of funding way beyond what the city can provide. National investment is vital, and we continue to work with government to make progress and bring this structure back to its former glory.”
It would take between two and three years for specialist contractors to complete the entire refurbishment of the bridge, with council bosses hoping that work could start from late summer 2022.
As well as a much-needed repaint, the works also include steelwork and concrete repairs, stonework and masonry fixes, waterproofing, and bridge joint replacement, and more.
Newcastle North MP Catherine McKinnell said that it was “clear that our iconic Tyne Bridge – a globally recognised symbol of not only Newcastle but the entire North East – is in desperate need of repair”.
She added: “That is why I am supporting calls to restore our beloved Tyne Bridge back to its former glory and why I have backed the region-wide bid for the Tyne Bridge to be repaired and repainted, to reflect its rightful status, ahead of the centenary celebrations.”
North of Tyne mayor Jamie Driscoll, who took part in Sunday’s Great North Run, called the bridge a “symbol of Geordie pride”.
He added: “It’s an iconic landmark, shared around the world to symbolise a great city and region. It must be restored to its former glory.
“It was great running over the Tyne Bridge yesterday. On the way back I noticed some of the metalwork has been bent by what looks like an impact from a high vehicle. I’ve supported the Levelling Up Fund bid to get it restored, and I hope Government don’t let us down.”
The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has been contacted for a response.