Changes to road layouts in Gateshead town centre
We are making a number of changes to road layouts within Gateshead town centre. This is to:
- prepare for major changes associated with air quality which will significantly affect vehicle access to the Tyne Bridge
- improve cycling and walking links between Gateshead and Newcastle and the Quays
- limit the flows of through-traffic through Gateshead town centre
There are a number of different reasons why these changes are essential.
From next year, the current two lanes in each direction over the Tyne Bridge will be reduced to a single lane each way. This is to comply with the government's legal direction on air quality and to enable heavy maintenance to the bridge's structure take place in the near future.
Halving the bridge's vehicle capacity will create heavy traffic congestion in Gateshead town centre. If we carry out works to trial-manage the impact now, while the traffic volume is lower than normal, it gives us a chance to find the best solution in advance.
We are therefore taking steps to discourage unnecessary motor vehicle use in Gateshead town centre, particularly by motorists from outside of Gateshead, and to ensure that any traffic congestion is not concentrated in one heavily-polluted area such as Oakwellgate, as it is now.
By limiting space for traffic - and providing more space for cyclists, pedestrians, shoppers and public transport - our aim is to provide the necessary conditions to encourage people who genuinely can make the switch to get out of their cars and leave road space for those who can't. These changes will also encourage drivers who can take an alternative route across the Tyne to take it instead of driving through the middle of Gateshead town centre.
Following a court ruling, the government has placed a legal requirement on Newcastle and Gateshead councils to address air quality in certain locations, and to put in place measures which bring levels of pollution in the affected areas to within legal limits in the shortest possible time. One of those locations is the Tyne Bridge.
The government has instructed councils to consider introducing a clean air zone with charges for certain vehicles to enter, similar to London's congestion charge scheme, and that any alternative to a charge must be at least as quick and as effective in addressing the problem.
A clean air zone will be introduced on Tyneside early next year with charges for all vehicles except private cars, although it could be extended to cars if these measures don't work. The River Tyne, and the Tyne Bridge form the southern boundary to the clean air zone.
Climate change already threatens our food supply, our homes, our jobs, everything. All the evidence points to the fact that if we don't do something soon, we'll reach a tipping point where whatever we do won't be enough.
A big part of the Climate Change problem is traffic. Almost 40% of all carbon emissions in Gateshead are from transport and that needs to change. Gateshead's commitment to becoming carbon-neutral by 2030 will need a major shift from private cars to cleaner and more sustainable modes of transport.
Limiting space for polluting vehicles and providing better facilities for alternative modes of transport support our efforts to reduce the effects of transport on our climate and reduce carbon emissions.
For more information visit our climate change pages.
The government has asked local councils to look at what temporary steps they can take quickly to further encourage cycling after seeing a substantial increase in the popularity of cycling during the Covid-19 pandemic, with far greater numbers of people cycling both for pleasure and for commuting. There is also a reduction in public transport capacity while social distancing measures are in place and cycling and walking provide the cheapest alternative.
We already receive requests from the public to improve cycling and walking links between Gateshead and Newcastle and the Quays. The current road layout presents a serious disincentive to people who want to walk or cycle.
The changes we are introducing will therefore allow the creation of new temporary cycle and improved pedestrian routes in Gateshead town centre.
For more information visit our improvements for cycling and walking in Gateshead page.
Town Centre development
Since the 1960's, our efforts to cope with the ever-rising demands of cars has led to our town centre being surrounded by dual carriageways. We've locked our town behind a ring of concrete and tarmac. Traffic jams are a daily occurrence making access difficult and unpleasant.
This is a major deterrent to developers which means economic growth, and the financial viability of Gateshead as a shopping centre, is severely limited. The results of that are already visible.
We need to break that ring of concrete to connect our town centre directly to the places that people want to go and where the council wants to see businesses thrive, such as Baltic Quarter, Gateshead Quays and the historic and developing Bridges Quarter.
In doing so, we can create the right conditions to encourage people out of their cars, to give them confidence to walk and cycle, to window-shop, to enjoy their town centre, or to commute quickly, healthily and safely to their places of work.