Tyne Bridge restoration: £41.4 million revamp saga timeline and schedule of work

The battle to get the world-famous Tyne Bridge restored to its rightful state has been high on the North East's news agenda for years. As the battered crossing has fallen into an increasingly dilapidated condition, there has been a long-running saga over when it will be refurbished and who will pay for it. But, after many months of wrangling and a war of words between local council leaders and the Government, a four-year project to give one of the region's great icons a long-overdue facelift will finally begin in earnest next Tuesday, April 2.

While that will come as a huge relief to those who have been pushing to get the vast maintenance scheme of the ground and for proud locals desperate to see the Tyne Bridge looking its best once again, the work is also expected to cause major disruption on Tyneside for the coming years. Here, we look back on the lengthy history of the efforts to give the Tyne Bridge its first significant repairs since 2001 and ahead to what will happen between now and the estimated completion date in 2028.

The story so far...

December 18, 2015 A report to Newcastle and Gateshead[1] councils' Joint Bridges Committee warns that the bridge's paintwork is "showing signs of deterioration" and proposes inspections to be carried out in order to assess what level of maintenance is required.

December 15, 2017 The Joint Bridges Committee is told of plans to carry out a major programme of repairs on the Tyne Bridge over a three-year period, between 2019 and 2021. Transport officials warn that council funding will be "insufficient" to deliver the project and Government intervention will be needed, adding that a failure to secure funding "would lead to a further deterioration in the bridge condition and would ultimately result in additional cost and a protracted longer duration for the works".

August 9, 2019 A GBP40 million bid for the restoration of both the Tyne Bridge and the Central Motorway is confirmed as being part of applications lodged via Transport for the North to the Government's Major Road Network fund. January 9, 2020

Nick Forbes, then the leader of Newcastle City Council[2], sets a target for the bridge to be refurbished in time for its centenary celebrations in 2028 - but says he wants the work completed "well in advance of that date". December 10, 2020 Councillors are told to expect the bridge to remain in a shabby state for at least another 12 months, but there are hopes that funding can be agreed and a contractor appointed in time to start work in 2022.

Rust and damage inside the Tyne BridgeRust and damage inside the Tyne Bridge

June 18, 2021

With the Major Road Network bid still unapproved, Newcastle City Council and the region's MPs mount a second funding application to help pay for the Tyne Bridge's restoration - asking for GBP18.45 million from the Levelling Up Fund. In a letter to local government secretary Robert Jenrick, they say that the crossing is "a symbol to represent not only Newcastle but the North East across the globe" but that the cost of repairing it "far exceeds" cash-strapped local authorities' resources. June 25, 2021

Newcastle City Council warns that a failure to repair the bridge could force it to ban all traffic aside from buses from using the crossing in a "worst case scenario", as it would not be strong enough to cope with the volume of traffic it currently carries. October 27, 2021 The Tyne Bridge misses out on Levelling Up Fund (LUF) money, with two other Newcastle projects given funding instead - the building of a new leisure centre in West Denton and city centre improvements that included a refurbishment of the Grainger Market.

That rejection did not come as a shock to local leaders, who expected that the LUF would not be the most appropriate source of funds. June 3, 2022 Almost three years after the bid was lodged, the Government agrees to give GBP35 million from the Major Roads Network fund to the Tyne Bridge and Central Motorway project.

It is hoped at this stage that work would start by the end of 2022 and the entire project could be completed by 2026. June 16, 2022 Shortly after the funding announcement, Durham-based Esh Construction is given the contract to carry out the huge maintenance project.

November 29, 2022 The results of detailed inspections on the Tyne Bridge reveal that it is in an even worse state of decay than was previously thought and will require more extensive repairs. Newcastle City Council announces that the restoration will take four years rather than two and will require two of the bridge's four lanes of traffic to be closed.

The rusted Tyne BridgeThe rusted Tyne Bridge

August 10, 2023

It is confirmed that the cost of the bridge's facelift has spiralled due to inflation and the need for it to undergo more extensive repairs. The new price tag is GBP32.6 million, rather than the original GBP20.7 million, meaning that the crossing will require the vast majority of the Government funding agreed for the works and improvements on the Central Motorway will have to be cut back. September 11, 2023

Engineers begin to erect scaffolding around the Gateshead side of the bridge - marking the official start of its refurbishment. This preparatory work is paid for by local councils, with the Government yet to deliver the funding it had promised in June 2022. October 13, 2023

The Tyne Bridge is named among a series of projects in line for a funding uplift that will see the Government cover 100% of their costs, following Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's decision to scrap the northern leg of the HS2 railway line. December 15, 2023 Fears begin to mount over the Government's failure to deliver its promised share of the funding for the Tyne Bridge.

Council leaders warn that they could be forced to delay the main bulk of the works even further - potentially meaning they would not be completed in time for the October 2028 centenary. January 19, 2024 The argument between local authorities and the Government over the funding deepens, with the Department for Transport claiming that council officials had not submitted all of the required documentation to enable the money to be signed off until December 2023.

This is denied locally, with Newcastle City Council insisting that its final business case had been submitted in July 2023 and the last minor pieces of requested clarification by November. January 22, 2024

11 North East MPs write to Rishi Sunak, urging him to step in and ensure that the DfT delivers its promised funding "at the earliest opportunity". February 2, 2024

After weeks of bitter feuding, the Government finally confirms that it will release GBP35.2 million of funding to allow the restoration to begin in earnest. On a visit to the Newcastle Quayside, roads minister Guy Opperman denies that his department was responsible for the long delays in the money arriving in the North East and says he is "100%" certain that the bridge will be back to its best in time for the 2028 100th anniversary celebrations.

Road minister Guy Opperman announcing funding for the restoration of the iconic Tyne BridgeRoad minister Guy Opperman announcing funding for the restoration of the iconic Tyne Bridge

February 26, 2024 There is some relief for motorists as it is confirmed that 24/7 lane closures that will halve the Tyne Bridge's capacity will only be necessary for two of the four years of the engineering works.

April 2 is named as the start date for the main phase of the restoration.

What happens next...

The start date for the main bulk of the restoration work is on Tuesday, April 2. For a large section of the huge engineering project, the capacity of the Tyne Bridge will be cut in half - reducing it to one lane of traffic in each direction. On April 2 and 3 these restrictions will be in force at off-peak times during the day (between 9.30am and 3.30pm), as was the case over recent weeks when scaffolding was being erected around the Gateshead side of the bridge.

A full overnight closure will be in place from 8pm on the evening of April 3 and the bridge will then reopen at 6am on Thursday, April 4 - from which point the lane restrictions will be in place 24 hours a day. The half-capacity restrictions are expected to be in place for a minimum of two years, with further temporary lane closures and full overnight closures planned after that. Newcastle City Council and contractors Esh have released the following breakdown of what works will be taking place during the four-year refurbishment:

Year One Main structural repairs, drainage, kerbing and surfacing works to each side of the bridge. Repainting works to the underside of the bridge on the Gateshead Quayside.

After the departure of the Quayside's colony of nesting kittiwakes in August 2024, scaffolding will be erected on the Newcastle Quayside similar to that currently on the Gateshead side. Year Two Repairs and repainting on the main span of the bridge.

Work from the underdeck of the bridge to its approaches on the Newcastle side will start once the kittiwakes depart in September 2025. Year Three Work on the Newcastle approach to the bridge is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2026.

Painting up to six metres high and installation of a protection desk above the carriageway that will allow the bridge arch to be painted. Year Four Paining of the arch completed, scaffolding removed, and final road resurfacing to be carried out.

The bridge will never be completely covered up during the four-year renovation project. Council bosses say that, because of weight limits on the bridge, scaffolding will be installed on different sections of it in 20 different phases. Esh told the Local Democracy Reporting Service last week that they are hopeful of completing the work by the summer of 2028.

That would mean that the bridge would be returned to its former glory in time the 100th anniversary of its official opening, which will be celebrated on October 28, 2028.


  1. ^ Gateshead (www.chroniclelive.co.uk)
  2. ^ Newcastle City Council (www.chroniclelive.co.uk)