Cash-strapped councils face ever-increasing Tyne Bridge renovation bill as Newcastle icon falls into disrepair
The cost of renovating Newcastle icon, the Tyne Bridge is steepling due to inflation.
The cost of restoring the Tyne Bridge to its former glory has spiralled “significantly” because of the inflation crisis, a new report reveals.
It was announced earlier this month that the North East icon is in an even worse state of disrepair than council bosses had feared and that its overdue renovation could take up to four years, twice as long as originally planned.
The rusted crossing’s dilapidated condition and the UK’s huge inflation rate, recently reported at a 41-year high of 11.1%, mean that cash-strapped Tyneside authorities now face a substantially bigger bill to complete the refurbishment.
A funding package of £41.4m, mostly funded by the Government, to repair both the Tyne Bridge and the Central Motorway was agreed this summer after years of desperate pleas.
But the economic crisis means that some of the motorway works could now be delayed or even abandoned in order to focus on the increasingly expensive bridge restoration.
The cash was due to be split in half, with £20.7m for the two major projects, but will now have to be “reprofiled” – with the Department for Transport saying there is no extra money available.
A report due to be presented to Newcastle and Gateshead councillors next Monday states: “Since the original funding bid was submitted there has been a significant increase in inflation costs in the construction industry. This has resulted in the estimated costs for the proposed works significantly increasing.
“The council are currently working with the contractor to finalise these costs. The councils have spoken with Department for Transport regarding the anticipated increase in scheme costs and they have stated that at this time there is no additional funding available from the Major Road Network programme.
“Officers are continuing to explore further funding options, however, we would look to re-allocate funding within the full £41.4m package, to ensure the Tyne Bridge was fully restored. The central motorway works would then need to be reprofiled. This work is being scoped by engineers.”
A detailed inspection of the bridge has confirmed a raft of problems on the grade II* listed structure – including peeling paintwork, corroding steel, cracked concrete, leading drains, damage to its road surface and pavements.
Engineers now estimate that it will take between 36 and 42 months to complete the massive refurbishment job, the first major maintenance on the Tyne Bridge for more than two decades, the start date for which has been pushed back to autumn 2023.
The extended timeframe has also been partly blamed on kittiwake numbers on the bridge, with engineers having to work around the birds’ nesting season.
A spokesperson for Newcastle and Gateshead councils said that they were “committed to ensuring that the Tyne Bridge works are completed in full” and would prioritise the landmark over the Central Motorway.
Coun Jane Byrne, Newcastle City Council’s cabinet member for transport, said: “The Tyne Bridge is an iconic symbol of the North East and we remain committed to restoring it to its former glory and preserving it for future generations.
“As this report sets out, this is a very challenging and complex project, having to balance rising costs with the full extent of the refurbishment works required. We will be working closely with partners to finalise the costings, programming and mitigation measures to reduce congestion on the main gateway in and out of the city.
“There is more work to be done on this ahead of finalising costings and programming and I look forward to working with partners to see this iconic structure fully restored and shining proudly in the Newcastle skyline once again.”
Local council officials also announced that two lanes of traffic on the deteriorating bridge will have to be shut for the duration of the works, sparking fears of nightmare traffic congestion lasting several years.