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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Behind the scenes of the Tyne Bridge works in first weeks of restoration

New photos have revealed a behind the scenes look at efforts to return the Tyne Bridge to its former glory.

Behind the scenes of the restoration of the Tyne Bridge. Image: Andrew Heptinstall Photography.

Engineers are now five weeks into a massive, four-year project to repair the rusting bridge, which last underwent major maintenance more than two decades ago.

Early work on the grade II* listed structure has seen operatives from Esh Construction squeezing into the tight confines of a 1.5m-high “void” beneath the bridge footway for a significant cleaning programme to remove dirt, rust and bird muck.

And cleaning works are also under way inside the scaffolding that has been built on the Tyne Bridge’s Gateshead tower, in preparation for grit blasting that will remove 96 years of previous paint coatings from the steelwork ready for it to be repaired and repainted in its traditional green colour.

Structural repairs on the east side of the bridge deck are expected to take around 12 months to complete, before the contractors head over to the Newcastle end and then eventually move up to the iconic crossing’s famous arch.

Behind the scenes of the restoration of the Tyne Bridge. Image: Andrew Heptinstall Photography.

It is hoped that the refurbishment works can be completed in time for the celebrations that will mark 100 years since the Tyne Bridge’s official opening in October 2028.

For the first two years of the works, the capacity of the bridge is being halved – with two of its four lanes of traffic currently closed off and motorists urged to avoid what is one of the key routes in and out of Newcastle city centre.

Newcastle City Council believes that the Tyneside road network “seems to be coping well” with the restrictions so far.

Drivers had been warned to expect 40-minute traffic jams at peak hours, but local authority bosses say that the rush hour delays so far have tended to be around 20 minutes.

Marion Williams, the council’s cabinet member responsible for transport, added: “This is the first phase of the restoration works to our iconic Tyne Bridge, with operatives working behind the scaffolding and within the footway voids on the main bridge deck. It’s a tight squeeze for those working within the narrow bridge void as cars travel above, but we’re making good progress.

“We know how important this work is to the people of the region and we will be keeping you fully updated throughout the restoration period. We’d like to thank everyone who has followed the travel advice, and please continue to do that by using alternative routes, taking the park and ride options, or making the switch to public transport, to help keep Tyneside moving.

“It is a long four-year programme, but these vital works are needed to preserve this much-loved landmark for the future, and we can’t wait to see it shining in the Tyneside sky again.”

Behind the scenes of the restoration of the Tyne Bridge. Image: Andrew Heptinstall Photography.

The refurbishment of the bridge and associated improvements to the Central Motorway are expected to cost more than £41 million.

The Government signed off in February on an initial £35.2 million funding for the scheme, but has promised a further £6 million to cover the full costs – with local councils still awaiting confirmation of that uplift, which was announced as part of Rishi Sunak’s Network North programme last October.

As well as a full repaint, the bridge is in need of a large number of structural repairs – including steelwork fixes, waterproofing and road resurfacing.

Stephen McClean, special projects construction manager at Esh, said: “We were eager to get started on the restoration and have hit the ground running within the first month. A lot of the work we’re doing isn’t visible at this stage to members of the public as it takes place behind the encapsulated hoarding as well as in the bridge deck void.

“As people drive, walk or wheel across the bridge, our team are working within confined space conditions which only reach a maximum height of 1.5 metres, and in many sections of the bridge deck void where we clamber and crawl over beams, joints and pipework, the space becomes even more cramped. We are keen to share behind the scenes updates as much as possible throughout the restoration.”

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