The Tyne Pedestrian and Cyclist Tunnels (TPCT) were opened on 24th July 1951, heralded as Tyneside’s contribution to the ‘Festival of Britain’ (May to September 1951) at a total cost of £833,000.
They contained the first purpose-built cycle tunnel in the UK and were the earliest to be used by both cyclists and pedestrians.
The Tunnels run under the River Tyne between Howdon in North Tyneside and Jarrow in South Tyneside. The two tunnels run in parallel, the pedestrian tunnel has a 10 ft 6 in (3.2 m) internal diameter and the cycle tunnel has a larger 12 ft (3.7 m) internal diameter tunnel.
Both tunnels are 900 ft (274.5 m) in length, 40 ft (12.2 m) below the river bed, with floor levels 85ft (26 m) below high water level of the Tyne.
A special feature of the tunnels is their four original wooden-step Waygood-Otis escalators. At the time of construction, they were the longest single-rise escalators in the world, with a vertical rise of 85ft (25.9m) and a length of approximately 200ft (61m). They are believed still to be the longest wooden-step escalators in Europe.
In 2000, the tunnels were awarded Grade II listing to indicate their historic significance.
In 2010 the vertical lifts were repaired and modernised.
On May 20th 2013, a £4.9 million refurbishment, to include the replacement of two of the escalators with inclined lifts, will begin. The remaining two escalators will be preserved in situ because of their historic significance.