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Tyne Tunnel (1967)
East Howden to Jarrow, Tyne & Wear, UK
associated engineer
Mott Hay & Anderson
date  1961 - 19th October 1967
era  Modern  |  category  Tunnel  |  reference  NZ329661
A road tunnel under the tidal River Tyne, located just east of the 1951 pedestrian and cycle tunnels also engineered by Mott Hay & Anderson. The Tyne Tunnel carried bi-directional traffic until 2011, when a second tunnel opened. Both are part of the A19 New Tyne Crossing. The refurbished 1967 tunnel takes the northbound traffic and the newer tunnel the southbound.
The need for a river crossing east of Newcastle was recognised in the 1920s. A tunnel, though more expensive, was preferred over a bridge so that the river was clear for shipping. In 1926, the Ministry of Transport proposed building a tunnel between North and South Shields, but local objections led to the rejection of the Parliamentary Bill proposed in the House of Commons.
In 1937, the councils of Durham and Northumberland suggested a road tunnel from Howdon to Jarrow. World War II (1939-45) delayed the scheme, which was eventually approved in 1943 and the Tyne Tunnel Act received royal assent in 1946. Its provisions included the construction of an 8.9m diameter vehicle tunnel containing a 6.7m wide carriageway.
However, in 1947, Minister of Transport Alfred Barnes (1887-1974) decided to defer construction of the tunnel because of post-war restrictions on capital expenditure. Work on the Tyne Tunnel, 11km east of Newcastle, began in 1961 under the direction of the Tyne Tunnels Joint Committee.
The single bore tunnel is 1.6km in length portal to portal. It was built with a two-lane 7.3m carriageway, with each lane 3.7m wide. The approach roads originally had dual 7.3m wide carriageways, and were 4.8km long to the south and 2.4km long to the north. A toll plaza is situated at the northern end of the tunnel.
Constructing the tunnel (9.5m internal diameter) necessitated excavating some 138,000 cu m of mixed clay, silt, sand, gravel, shale and sandstone interspersed with fissured coal seams. The difficult ground conditions slowed progress to an average of 7m of tunnel length per week, much of it excavated with hand tools.
The tunnel’s crown is 15.2m below the river bed, or 27.4m below high water level. The interior is rendered watertight with 45,700 tonnes of cast iron primary linings, connected in segments by 350,000 bolts, and 386 tonnes of lead caulking.
Ventilation stations on the north (NZ329666) and south (NZ329655) sides of the river are equipped with fans of 4m and 4.9m diameter respectively. They have 100% reserve capacity, and supply up to 21,200 cu m of air per minute to the tunnel. Extracted contaminated air is exhausted via chimneys 45.7m tall.
Queen Elizabeth II opened the Tyne Tunnel on 19th October 1967, and it became fully operational the following day. The original toll was 2s 6d (12.5p) per car.
Until 1974, the tunnel was managed by Northumberland and Durham County Councils, after which it became the responsibility of Tyne & Wear Metropolitan County Council. In 1986, Tyne & Wear Passenger Transport Authority took over the running of this tunnel and the nearby pedestrian and cyclist tunnels, under the auspices of Newcastle City Council.
The tunnel was well-used and by the late 1970s, it had reached its design capacity of 24,000 vehicles per day. Traffic volumes continued to grow, reaching a peak of 38,000 vehicles a day in 2010, causing severe congestion — to the detriment of the local environment.
In June 1992, a study concluded that another vehicle crossing would be needed. The second Tyne Tunnel was completed in February 2011 and, together with the existing pedestrian and cyclist tunnels, the two road tunnels are known collectively as the New Tyne Crossing.
In 2007, TT2 Ltd was appointed as the crossing’s concessionaire, with 30-year operating responsibility for the road tunnels. Following the 2008 Local Transport Act, the Passenger Transport Authority became the Integrated Transport Authority.
From October 2010 to November 2011, the original tunnel underwent major refurbishment as part of the £260m New Tyne Crossing project. Initial works were carried out at night with partial lane closures. From February 2011, the tunnel was closed completely and all traffic diverted into the new road tunnel, built just to the east, for the remaining time.
Refurbishment work consisted of replacing original fittings and walkways with state-of-the-art equipment. The two traffic lanes have been reconfigured to 3.2m wide, a dedicated escape passage has been added and new safety systems installed. The approach roads have been re-aligned and include a new eight-lane toll plaza (NZ329663).
On 8th November 2011, an emergency exercise simulating a chemical spill was staged in the tunnel to test its major incident plan. The new fire and safety strategies employed here have ensured that this tunnel is now among the safest in the world. It re-opened to traffic on 21st November 2011.
Contractor: Edmund Nuttall Ltd
Electrical contractor: Holliday (Eastern) Ltd
Contractor (2010-11): Bouygues Travaux Publics
Research: ECPK
"A tale of two tunnels: delivering the New Tyne Crossing" by Paul Fenwick, Cliff Jessett, David Dingwall and Malcolm Shaw, in Civil Engineering, Vol.165, pp.27-34, London, February 2012
"New Tyne Crossing, Newcastle, joint venture of bored and immersed tunnel completes the link" by J.C.W.M. de Wit and T.J. Fay, in (Re) Claiming the Underground Space: Proceedings of the ITA World Tunnelling Congress 2003, Amsterdam, 12-17th April 2003
"Discussion: The Tyne Tunnel" by J.R. Prosser et al
in ICE Proceedings, Vol.41, pp.567-584, London, November 1968

Tyne Tunnel (1967)