Council leaders refused to commit that Tyne Bridge would be restored to its full glory in time for its 100th anniversary.
The iconic symbol of the North East is in desperate need of a total makeover, having received no major maintenance for two decades – leaving it in need of a repaint and a series of structural repairs. A £40m funding bid to restore the rusting crossing to its proper condition, as well as refurbish the Central Freeway, has been awaiting government approval for more than two years.
And although there is now a cautious expectation that the Department for Transport (DfT) will approve the project, city leaders were reluctant to commit Monday evening to getting the overdue repairs completed in time for the bridge’s centenary. in 2028.
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It has long been a stated ambition of Newcastle City Council to ensure Tyne Bridge is back to its best in time for this momentous occasion. Civic center officials hope the government will agree to cover the bulk of the funding for the scheme in May, with work on the bridge starting this summer and finishing in 2024 – while repairs to the central freeway are due to start in 2023 and be completed in 2026.
But, at a cabinet meeting on Monday, warnings were issued that the extent of the bridge’s sad deterioration remains unknown – and that, like other major restoration projects such as the Grainger Market, engineers could still encounter unexpected problems that would delay the massive works. . Opposition Lib Dem leader Nick Cott asked for reassurance that maintenance would be carried out in time for the 100th anniversary, saying it would be ‘terrible if it wasn’t and it wouldn’t mean a lot -thing about the board and its ability to carry out projects of this kind”.
Coun Ged Bell, Labor cabinet member for transport, replied: “I don’t think it’s fair to predetermine before you’ve even inspected the bridge, that’s what I hope there will be unanimous support tonight – that we can get the process underway and launch full investigations to find out exactly how the money is going to be spent and then a more detailed timetable can be drawn up.
“We would all like to see this bridge finished, complete, a shining example of an iconic bridge that has been copied across the world, ready for its anniversary. We will do all we can, but until we have not that detail, we can’t commit.” on a specific date. »
City Council leader Nick Forbes added that he had “always hoped it would be done right in time for its 100th birthday”.
However, he cautioned: “We have seen with other buildings and bridges in the city, such as the Grainger Market and the High Level Bridge, that once you start looking at such structures, they often require more repair work than originally assessed. It’s not about feeling incompetent, it’s just because you walk into the structures that you can’t tell exactly what work will be required.
The cabinet authorized the local authority on Monday to appoint specialist contractors to help develop the maintenance project, identify exactly what it would cost and then carry out the work – in the hope that work can start as soon as possible once funding is confirmed. . The cost of the works is expected to be £41.4 million, split equally between the bridge and the central freeway.
According to a cabinet report, it is now hoped that the DfT will cover around £35million of this, with the rest coming from Newcastle and Gateshead councils. The bridge upgrade would include its painting, road resurfacing, structural steel and concrete repairs, masonry and masonry repairs, waterproofing and replacement of bridge joints, and more .