Tyne Tunnels History


Tyne Tunnel Year - 1920


In order to meet the growing, and widely recognised, need for a river crossing east of Newcastle, towards the sea, a proposal was considered during the 1920s for a tunnel between North and South Shields. This was to carry high-speed electric monorail cars. Original nineteenth century proposals for another bridge across the Tyne had given way to a tunnel. Although the cost of a new bridge was likely to be lower, there were strong objections to a bridge crossing because of its effect on navigation in the lower reaches of the river, where some of the largest vessels in the world were built and came to be repaired and refitted.

Tyne Tunnel Year - 1926

In 1926, the Ministry of Transport made a Provisional Order authorising construction of the new tunnel, but some aspects of the scheme were the subject of local objections and the House of Commons rejected the subsequent Bill on the second reading.

Tyne Tunnel Year - 1937

In 1937, the Durham and Northumberland County Councils put forward a scheme for a road tunnel under the river between Howdon and Jarrow, and after prolonged negotiation and discussion their plan was approved by the then minister of transport in 1943. Matters were delayed by the war, but as soon as hostilities ended the two Councils promoted the necessary Bill which duly received the Royal Assent as the Tyne Tunnel Act, 1946.

This Act provided for the construction of a vehicular tunnel 29 ft. 3 in. in diameter, which would provide for a carriageway 22 ft. wide, and two smaller tunnels, one 12 ft. wide and the other 10 ft. 6 in. in diameter for the use of cyclists and pedestrians respectively. It was at first proposed that access to the two smaller tunnels should be by lifts, thus reducing their length. Responsibility for implementing the project was vested in the Tyne Tunnel Joint Committee consisting of representatives of the two County Councils.

Tyne Tunnel Year - 1946

In 1946 the Ministry of Transport agreed to make a 75 per cent grant towards the construction costs of the tunnels, leaving the remaining costs to be met by the two Counties in equal shares. Owing to the restrictions on capital expenditure introduced in 1947 however, the then Minister, the Right Hon. Alfred Barnes M.P., ruled that for the time being work should be confined to the pedestrian and cycle tunnels only. The work of driving these tunnels began in June 1947.

Tyne Tunnel Year - 1951


The completed pedestrian and cycle tunnels were opened by the Minister of Transport, the Right Hon. Alfred Barnes, M.P., on the 24th July 1951. The Waygood-Otis escalators were installed in the inclined vertical rise of 85 ft. They are also the first in the country to be used by cyclists as well as by pedestrians. At this time 17,000 people per day used this facility.

Tyne Tunnel Year - 1961

In 1961 construction of the vehicle tunnel began. This involved the excavation of 180,000 cubic yards of earth and the use of 45,000 tons of cast iron primary linings, 350,000 1 1/2 inch diameter bolts and 380 tons of lead caulking. The crown of the tunnel is 50 feet below the riverbed and 90 feet below high water level in the river.

Ventilation stations were built on the north and south sides of the river equipped with fans respectively 13 feet and 16 feet in diameter and having 100 per cent reserve capacity supply up to 750,000 cubic feet of air per minute to ventilate the vehicular tunnel. Contaminated air is extracted from the tunnel and discharged at the same stations through chimneys 150 feet high.

Tyne Tunnel Year - 1967


The Tyne Vehicular Tunnel was developed under the direction of the Tyne Tunnels Joint Committee. It was constructed between 1961 and 1967 and opened to traffic by HM the Queen in October 1967. The Vehicle Tunnel’s purpose was to provide a crossing of the River Tyne on the now A19 strategic corridor which directly serves Tyneside, Wearside and the Tees Valley.

The Tunnels have been managed jointly by Northumberland and Durham County Councils, the Pedestrian Tunnels from 1951 to 1967, and the Vehicle and Pedestrian Tunnels from 1967 to 1974.

Tyne Tunnel Year - 1974

After Local Government restructuring in 1974 the Tyne & Wear Metropolitan County Council were made responsible for the Tunnels, until 1986 when the Tyne & Wear Passenger Transport Authority (P.T.A.) took over the responsibility under the management of the Lead Authority Newcastle City Council. A further Vehicle Tunnel had always been an aspiration and by the 1990s growing traffic numbers made the concept increasingly compelling. From 1996 the PTA pursued this option under a Private Public Partnership, and in November 2005 a tender process was undertaken to identify a potential Concessionaire for the provision of the second Vehicle Tunnel, as part of the New Tyne Crossing Project (NTC).

Tyne Tunnel Year - 1986

Tyne and Wear Passenger Transport Authority (TWPTA) takes over responsibility for the operation of the Tyne Tunnels from the Tyne and Wear Metropolitan County Council. Management of the tunnels is facilitated by the Lead Authority Newcastle City Council.

Tyne Tunnel Year - 2002

In order to address the increasing demands for extra capacity at the Tyne Tunnel, the TWPTA submits an application to the Secretary of State for Transport for an Order under the Transport and Works Act to proceed with a proposal to construct an immersed tube tunnel.

Tyne Tunnel Year - 2003

A Public Inquiry is held in spring 2003 at which all the issues of building the New Tyne Crossing are thoroughly addressed and considered.

Tyne Tunnel Year - 2005

The Secretary of State for Transport approves the scheme to construct the New Tyne Crossing in July 2005.

A legal challenge to the Secretary of State’s decision is made by a member of the public within six weeks of the approval. This causes a delay of several months in the process to appoint a Concessionaire.

Tyne Tunnel Year - 2006

The legal challenge to the New Tyne Crossing is dismissed by the High Court in spring 2006. The challenger seeks leave to appeal to the Appeal Court. This is refused in August 2006.

In the meantime, in February 2006, the two remaining Concessionaire bidders are invited to submit tenders to demonstrate how they would develop the New Tyne Crossing. The tenders are received in August 2006.

Tyne Tunnel Year - 2007


Following a period of evaluation, the appointment of the preferred bidder, a Bouygues-led consortium, is made on 12 April 2007. A period of negotiation concludes with the final contract signed in November 2007. This marks the appointment of the Concessionaire (TT2 Limited) who will finance, design and build the new tunnel, and operate and maintain all the tunnels, for up to 30 years.

Tyne Tunnel Year - 2008


February 2008 – all tunnel assets and staff are transferred to TT2 Limited. Construction of the New Tyne Crossing starts, with vegetation clearance taking place along the entire length of the construction corridor from January 2008, and site fencing and enabling works beginning in April 2008. A ground breaking ceremony is held in October 2008 to mark the start of the main construction works.

Tyne Tunnel Year - 2009


Dredging of the bed of the River Tyne takes place during november 2009. By dredging during the winter impacts on fish can be minimised. Dredging is undertaken using a cutter suction dredger with all the waste material deposited in Tyne Dock to support Port of Tyne’s plans to infill and redevelop the victorian dock.

Tyne Tunnel Year - 2010

During January and February 2010 the four pre-cast concrete tunnel elements that will make up the river section of the new vehicle tunnel are floated along the Tyne from Walker dry dock, where they had been built, to the site of the new tunnel. Here they are lowered into place in the pre-dredged channel.

The latter half of 2010 focused on installing the mechanical and electrical fittings to the new tunnel.

Tyne Tunnel Year - 2011


Prior to commissioning of the new vehicle tunnel a full scale emergency exercise is carried out to test the integrated emergency systems. The new tunnel proudly boasts a fixed fire suppression system, the first of its kind in the UK. Once the new tunnel is commissioned for public use, all Tyne Tunnel traffic is diverted into the new tunnel for a period of approximately ten months. The original vehicle tunnel closes at this time and work commences on the full refurbishment of the 1967-built tunnel.

Tyne Tunnel Year - 2012


Both vehicle tunnels are open to traffic. The original vehicle tunnel accommodates all northbound traffic and the new vehicle tunnel accommodates all southbound traffic. There are two lanes of traffic in each tunnel.

Tyne Tunnel Year - 2037


“TT2’s period as Concessionaire ends. Operation and maintenance of the Tyne Tunnels is handed back to the TWPTA from TT2 Ltd.

Tyne Tunnel tolls

Motorbikes, disabled toll Free
Car, Van or Bus
< 3m high
and 2 axles
LGV, Van or Bus
≥ 3m high or
3 axles or more

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and the A1 at Gateshead.
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