By James Harrison- Local Democracy Reporter
The cost of each person using the reopened Tyne Pedestrian and Cyclist Tunnel this year has been about £1,000 per person per day.
The project to restore the historic crossing has been dogged by problems since day one and which have seen costs and delays spiral out of control.
And with work still to be finished, partly due to further obstacles thrown up by the COVID-19 pandemic, the average price per traveller has ballooned, although bosses hope it will be swiftly brought under control once the scheme is completed.
“Those running costs are temporary, in the sense that this is to get the refurbishment finished,” said Tyne Tunnels Manger Fiona Bootle.
“Once it’s handed to Tyne Tunnel operator TT2, those running costs are going to reduce quite dramatically.
“TT2 will then run it as part of the project agreement, which is already paid for by the ‘shadow toll’ arrangement.
“The intention is we won’t be running it for any length of time and it is a temporary arrangement.”
Bootle was speaking at a meeting of the North East Joint Transport Committee’s Audit Committee.
Since the tunnel has been open to the public in August last year (2019), day-to-day operational costs, including security, maintenance, cleaning and utilities, have totalled £433,130, although bosses insist these are ‘likely to reduce’ once refurbishment is completed.
Over the same period, the tunnel has been used by about 400 people per day, on average, although this was higher over summer months.
Work to refurbish the tunnel started in May 2013 and was supposed to take 57 weeks and cost £6.5 million.
More than seven years later, the final price tag is expected to be almost £17 million and is still not finished, with bosses awaiting the installation of inclined glass lift delayed due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Mark Scrimshaw, the panel’s independent chairman, said: “I know it’s a lovely thing and I’m very pleased the region can see its way to restoring and renewing it because it is a marvel, but it’s an expensive one.
“When we’re talking about the savings that are going to have to be made by Nexus and bus companies and everyone else, there’s got to be a way of presenting this as a slightly better financial deal.
“It’s taken longer than the Second World War, we defeated fascism faster than we got the tunnel fixed.”