Tyne Bridge worries reach parliament as travel disruption fears continue
Work to restore the Tyne Bridge is set to take four years and will reduce the road to one lane in one direction, which 70,000 vehicles a day will have to share.
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Worries over the travel disruption that may be caused by vital restoration work to the Tyne Bridge in Newcastle were escalated to parliament this week by MP Chi Onwurah.
More details emerged this week regarding the extent of work needed to repair the North East landmark, with inspections finding more extensive repairs are required than first anticipated. It is estimated that the major refurbishment programme could last up to four years.
With around 70,000 vehicles a day using the Tyne Bridge, it points to the region needing a long-term workaround for the necessary closures to carry out work. The bridge will be reduced to one lane in each direction for large parts of the refurbishment.
Newcastle-upon-Tyne Central MP, Ms Onwurah escalated the worries to Minister of State (Rail and HS2) Huw Merriman MP in parliament this week, pleading for a meeting with the cabinet to find a workaround for those in the North East.
The MP said: "As well as being a global icon of the North East, the Tyne Bridge is a critical part of our transport infrastructure and we are more reliant on it given the atrocious levels of service we have on the railways and the buses, and the lack of investment in our Northern infrastructure such as Northern Powerhouse Rail.
"The much-needed restoration of the Tyne Bridge from its current dilapidated state is going to lead to further disruption to our transport links, which really just cannot get any worse. Will the Minister meet with me urgently to see what can be done to mitigate the impact on our transport links of restoring our great Tyne Bridge to its full glory in time for its 100th birthday?"
The Minister replied affirmatively, promising to meet Ms Onwurah and find out more about what can be done.
Mr Merriman said: "As I said, I'm keen to meet with as many that require it. My officials will be no doubt tearing their hair out but I'm very happy to meet with her. We certainly know that a lot of our infrastructure, because our railways were built by our pioneering Victorians, it needs renewal and some of the renewal can be particularly complex and expensive to deliver, and also ownership can impact that as well. I'm keen to meet with her and find out more."
Staff at Newcastle City Council, with input from Gateshead, have already begun looking at a number of mitigation measures, including promoting alternative routes and improving public transport links to ease disruption whilst the £41.4 million works take place.
Cllr Jane Byrne, cabinet member for a connected, clean city at Newcastle City Council, said: "The Tyne Bridge is a symbol of home to Geordies all over the world and it is really important that we complete this work and preserve our much-loved bridge for future generations.
"This is a challenging and complex project, due to the sheer size of the bridge, its age and Grade II listed status, protecting the kittiwake colony from disturbance and the massive scope of work required - which isn't just the sizeable task of painting it - but a full restoration programme to see the bridge returned to its former glory. As well as managing disruption to traffic on a major gateway to and from the city.
"Early timelines show this could be four years, but we will be working to complete the work hopefully sooner, and we will be working with other authorities and public transport providers to have measures in place to mitigate the impact to the travelling public."