Tyne and Wear
Engineering / Construction, Bridges
Walking or cycling in dedicated tunnels, descending on one side and emerging the other side of the River Tyne, is a not-to-be-missed experience.
The tunnels between Howdon and Jarrow were first proposed in 1937 and Tyne Tunnel Act approving the construction received Royal Assent in 1946.
The unusual dedicated tunnels for pedestrians and cyclists are 900 feet in length, the pedestrian tunnel 10 feet 6 inches diameter, the cyclists’ tunnel 12 feet. The Waygood Otis escalators are currently being upgraded. They originally had a vertical rise of 85 feet and at 200 feet were the longest single flight escalators in the country (and also, it is thought, in the world), equipped with speed regulators responsive to levels of use.
The tunnels responded to the heavy traffic generated by the shipyards concentrated on the north and south river banks. At peak times in the prosperous 1950s, use of the tunnels was enormous.
Whilst road tunnels beneath major rivers are commonplace, dedicated pedestrian and cyclist tunnels are rare. Their continued survival now points to the increasing long distance leisure usage of cycles and the sustainable local transport role of cycling.