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Tyne Pedestrian and Cyclist Tunnels
Willington Quay to Jarrow, Tyne & Wear, UK
associated engineer
Mott Hay & Anderson
date  1947 - 1950, opened 24th July 1951
UK era  Modern  |  category  Tunnel  |  reference  NZ328659
ICE reference number  HEW 2010
The twin parallel tunnels opened in 1951 that run under the River Tyne between Willington Quay and Jarrow were Tyneside’s contribution to the Festival of Britain. They were the longest subterranean passages in the country at the time and included the first purpose-built cycle tunnel in the UK. They remain in daily use and are part of the National Cycle Network.
Tunnels beneath the River Tyne for pedestrians, cyclists and motor vehicles were proposed initially in 1920. Durham and Northumberland county councils considered a scheme in 1937 but World War II (1939-45) intervened. In 1946, the Tyne Tunnel Act was passed and construction of the pedestrian and cycle tunnels began the following year.
The Tyne Pedestrian and Cyclist Tunnels run 12.2m below the river bed, with floor levels 26m below high water level. Their purpose was to make commuting to work easier for the thousands of shipyard and industrial workers who lived on the north and south banks.
The tunnels are 274m long. The pedestrian (east) tunnel is 3.2m in diameter and the cycle (west) tunnel is larger at 3.7m diameter. Both are lined in cast iron segments clad in green and cream ceramic tiles.
Above ground, single-storey red brick rotundas house the entrances at each end. They feature reinforced concrete shallow-domed roofs, coated in asphalt. Each accommodates two escalators. Lifts are housed in adjacent square-plan red brick buildings with flat reinforced concrete roofs.
The four original Waygood-Otis timber-tread escalators are still in place. At the time, these were the longest single-flight escalators in the world, with 306 steps each — a vertical rise of 26m and a horizontal length of about 61m. The steps are finished in metal-backed birch plywood topped with maple cleats. The same type of escalator was installed in various stations on the London Underground network, though none survive today.
Tunnel boring was completed in 1949, though the excavations were affected by old colliery mine workings on both banks. The northern tunnel entrance s built on, or close to, the site of the house where railway and structural engineer Robert Stephenson (1803-59) was born.
The Minister of Transport, Alfred Barnes (1887-1974), opened the tunnels on 24th July 1951. The project had cost £833,000. From the start use of the tunnels was free of charge, and remains so. They were given Grade II listing in May 2000.
In 2004, the original electric escalators were modified to allow automatic operation. In 2010, the lifts were repaired and modernised. A refurbishment is planned that will include replacement of two of the four historic escalators with inclined lifts. The remaining escalators are to be conserved in situ with their workings open to public view.
Around 250,000 people a year use the tunnels.
Resident engineer: J. Kell
Contractor: Charles Brand & Son Ltd
Ceramic tiling: Carter & Co, Poole
Research: ECPK
reference sources   CEH North

Tyne Pedestrian and Cyclist Tunnels