As the construction of the Second Tyne Tunnel draws to a close, commuters from across the region will be looking forward to the end of crawling along in seemingly endless traffic queues.
Managing Director of the project, Trevor Jackson believes that when the new Tunnel is unveiled in a matter of weeks, it will transform links between North and South Tyneside.
Speaking at a North Tyneside Business Forum event on Tuesday evening, he said: “ It’s going to make a huge difference - if you’ve been through the tunnel during peak hours, you know about the congestion.
“The old Tunnel has been running at over capacity for a long time, and the government should have doe it a long time ago.”
As well as improving connections in the region, the new Tunnel was created using innovative tunnelling techniques to accommodate the existing Tunnel.
“The tunnel is not a normally excavated tunnel,” explains Trevor. “It’s done by making big units which were made up the river and floated down with ballast tanks inside.
“A slot was then dredged in the river, and the ballast tanks were filled up with water then lowered down and joined up – so if you drive through that’s what you’re going through.”
When it opens it will be one of the safest tunnels in the UK, incorporating state of the art surveillance cameras, sprinkler systems and a pressurized escape corridor, which prevents smoke from entering it. These features have also been put into the old tunnel.
As well as benefiting commuters, the new tunnels are set to have a positive impact on businesses on Tyneside. According to World Bank approximations, an investment of £1 billion will create 60,000 jobs, indirect jobs and induced jobs, and following these guidelines, Trevor now hopes to see vast improvements in the region.
“The old Tunnel has been running at over capacity for a long time and really the government should have done long ago.
“When the new tunnel opens, the labour pool, which has previously been isolated in South Tyneside, will finally have access to the huge developments and jobs which are springing up in the North.
“Development and traffic growth go hand in hand, and as we finally see the constraints lifted traffic will come rushing, and business with it.”
However, Mr Jackson is now calling on Government to address the issue of the Silverlink Roundabout, which could struggle to accommodate the predicted influx of traffic.
“We are doubling the tunnel so that has the potential to have the traffic arriving at double the rate at the Silverlink Roundabout in peak hours – how do the Highways Agencies intend to allow for this?
“There seems to be a lack of joined up thinking and really, how on earth did the Silverlink get sidelined?
“Somehow there needs to be a better forum for proper thinking for what is in the best interests of the North East, because ultimately it is the region who will suffer.”