Drivers have been warned that repair works to the Tyne Bridge will cause “crippling” congestion over the next three years. The leader of Gateshead Council shared the stark message ahead of works starting and said motorists must consider alternative routes.
The Newcastle Chronicle is reporting that the preliminary works are set to begin on the regional landmark in September with the erection of scaffolding and caring for the famous Kittiwake nests. The larger scale repair works, made possible by a Government investment of £35.3m, will begin next year.
However, the works mean capacity on the bridge will be reduced to one lane each way for three years from early 2024 creating “crippling” congestion, according to Coun Martin Gannon. Coun Gannon went on to say it is now the job of the local authority to make residents across the North East aware of the plans and to help people find alternative travel routes.
He said: “We have worked hard with Newcastle City Council in securing the funding and working through the programme that is going to be required to bring the bridge back up to scratch, it is absolutely essential. It’s not just that it’s an iconic symbol of Tyneside, it is a vital transport link for the region. It is entirely right and we have no option but to carry out these works.”
At present, approximately 70,000 vehicles cross the bridge every day, but once works are in full swing that figure is expected to drop by 50%.
Coun Gannon continued: “What we can’t have is a situation where on the first day of the work people turn up and say ‘I didn’t know that was happening’. We need to be absolutely clear with people now that there will be crippling congestion over the next three years, and therefore people need to find alternative routes.
“We want the message out really strongly to the people of the North East of England that yes we are proud to do this, the bridge will be brought up to its glory to celebrate its 100th anniversary. But the inevitable consequence of having to do something that is unavoidable is we are going to have reduced capacity on the bridge for three years and it is going to cause huge congestion and people need to start making alternative provisions.”
Over the coming months, Gateshead Council will raise awareness among motorists to try to ease congestion during the works.
While councillors welcomed funding from central Government for the scheme, some believed the situation could have been made easier if requests were heard earlier. Gateshead Council cabinet member for the environment and transport, John McElroy said: “It would have been better if the Government listened to us earlier, but never the less we are where we are.”