A new study into a ‘Tees Tunnel’ linking Redcar and Hartlepool is set to be launched in the next few weeks.

Work would be undertaken to examine the viability of a tunnel link under the River Tees for motorists, pedestrians, cyclists and freight. The ambitious idea has been floated by Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen with plans for the study being considered by voting members of the Tees Valley Combined Authority later this month.

Redcar and Hartlepool are a relatively short distance apart on opposite sides of the river but motorists travelling between the two towns face a journey of around 45 minutes. Mr Houchen said a tunnel could slash travel times, ease pressure on the A689 and A19 and offer better access to jobs for those living north of the Tees.

“This would be an in-depth business case level piece of work to tell us whether it was viable, how much it would cost, timescales and if there were any obstacles,” Mr Houchen told the Local Democracy Reporting Service. “There might be some things that we would face that we just don’t know yet because we haven’t done the survey work.”

Darlington and Stockton Times: Fresh study for ‘Tees Tunnel’ linking Redcar and Hartlepool

The study would include assessments on environmental impact and traffic movements, he said. “It would also look at the feasibility of where it could go, how it connects into the trunk road on the south and how it connects into Seal Sands or Hartlepool in the north, depending on where it goes,” he added.

The proposed study would cost £1m using money from the TVCA’s transport fund. Mr Houchen said, if his proposal is backed, the study would be immediately commissioned.

If a tunnel was found to be viable, a Development Consent Order (DCO) – used for major infrastructure projects – would then be drawn up and submitted to the Planning Inspectorate. If recommended, the final decision for development consent would rest with the Secretary of State.

A 2004 study funded by defunct regeneration agency OneNorthEast envisaged a tunnel crossing the Tees from the A66 at South Bank before emerging at Haverton Hill. Research into an overground eastern crossing was later carried out by the TVCA in 2019.

Mr Houchen said: “The problem with a road bridge is that, as soon as you put a bridge over the River Tees, it limits the size of the boats you can get into the river so it fundamentally damages the economy of Teesside because most of what we do is built on the river. In reality, if you want an eastern crossing, it has to be a tunnel.”

In response to the news, Chris McEwan, Labour candidate for Tees Valley Mayor, said: “We need a strategy that will deliver all across the Tees Valley, not just gimmicks in the run up to an election. Our region desperately needs connecting, and investing in our roads, rail and bus networks will always be welcome and something I’ll prioritise as Mayor.”

Jacob Young, Conservative MP for Redcar, said the tunnel could be “a game-changing project” for Redcar and the Tees Valley. Cllr Carl Quartermain, Cabinet member for highways and transport at Redcar and Cleveland Council, who is on the transport committee of the TVCA, said: “Our area has massive potential to attract international industry to develop the jobs of the future – but it’s going to take investment and planning and that includes improving our already excellent transport links.

“The Council are working closely with the Tees Valley Combined Authority on a number of ideas and proposals – although they are at a very early stage – with a view to benefit industry at our internationally important Teesworks, Wilton and Teesport sites as well as for all travellers across the borough. We will continue to be bold and ambitious to help develop industry across our borough and the Tees Valley.”

Following the Prime Minister’s controversial scrapping of the Northern leg of the HS2 rail line, the Tees Valley was allocated £978m of funding from the City Region Sustainable Transport Settlement (CRSTS) for years 2027/28 to 2031/32. Cash has already been lined up for a new £150m bus and railway station at Teesside Park as well as an overhaul of Teesside Airport railway station with further funding being put towards saving the Transporter Bridge.