The tunnels between Howdon and Jarrow were first proposed in 1937, but it wasn’t until the Tyne Tunnel Act granted construction before Royal Assent in 1946, opening in 1951. The tunnels where designed to alleviate heavy traffic generated by the shipyards concentrated on the north and south river banks and allowed workers greater access to job opportunities and housing.
The tunnels are unusual in having seperate dedicated tunnels for pedestrians and cyclists, each 275 metres long. It would be the first purpose built cycling tunnel of its kind. Two small entrance buildings at Howdon (north) and Jarrow (south) mark the descent into the two parallel tunnels which sit about 12m below the river bed.
The original wooden Waygood Otis escalators (rising 26 metres, and 60 metres long) are unique for being the longest in the world at the time of construction and still today remain the longest in Europe. The tunnels and unique wooden escalators are Grade II listed structures.
In May 2013, the tunnels received £6m to refurbish and replace two of the escalators to meet modern fire safety guidance. Two of the original lifts will remain with the tunnel due to reopen in July 2015.
All images copyright of the Tyne and Wear Pedestrain and Cycle Tunnel