Newcastle & Gateshead Joint Bridges Committee
5 April 2005
High Level Bridge Traffic Management
Report by: Director of Regeneration, Newcastle City Council Ward Implications: Westgate/Bede , Bridges
1.1 On 26 February 2005, the High Level Bridge was closed to „vehicular traffic‟ so
as to allow Network Rail to effect urgent and necessary structural repairs to the
bridge. This report outlines the arrangements put in place and yet to be
implemented to cater for this substantive change to the Tyne infrastructure.
2.1 The Committee is recommended to:
Note the traffic management regime put in place and the ongoing consideration 2.1.1 of the long term operation of the bridge in relation to motorvehicle traffic.
3.1 The High Level Bridge was constructed in 1849 by Robert Stephenson and is a
Grade 1 Listed structure. The Bridge owners, Network Rail, have carried out a
full assessment of this historic structure and are very concerned about the
volume of traffic using the bridge, individual vehicle weights and traffic speed.
3.2 The road deck of the bridge is constructed out of timber with a tarmac type road
surface. Investigation has shown that the timber deck is in a poor condition and
is in need of total replacement if it is to continue to carry traffic. Due to width
constraints and the construction methods involved, it is not possible to carry out
this work without closing the bridge to road vehicles for approximately 8 months.
Network Rail have been in discussion with both the City Council and Gateshead
MBC over the timing of these works and it has been agreed that the least
disruptive time would be from March to October 2005. However, the exact
duration will not be known until work has started, the timber deck is exposed,
and a detailed assessment carried out. The risk of, and undesirability of this
work over-running October 2005 and towards Christmas has resulted in the
start of work being brought forward to end of February 2005.
3.3 The High Level Bridge carries the lightest traffic flow of all of the City Centre
road bridges, carrying approximately 8,000 vehicles per day compared with the
Tyne Bridge‟s 60,000. It equates to approximately 6% of the City Centre cross
river traffic flow.
3.4 Whilst the High Level Bridge is not so important in overall traffic terms, it is very
critical to bus movements. Over 1,050 buses per day use the bridge and this
makes the High Level equal highest in terms of bus movements with the Tyne
Bridge. With the High Level Bridge 13% of the traffic is made up by buses,
whereas with the Tyne Bridge it is only 1.7%. In passenger movement terms,
High Level Bridge carries more bus passengers in the peak hours than car
3.5 As a result of these numbers, the closure of the High Level Bridge for 8 months will have a disproportionately negative effect on bus services and passengers It
was therefore necessary to introduce some traffic mitigation measures in the
City Centre to minimise these effects by improving bus journey times elsewhere.
Traffic Management (Temporary) 4.
4.1 Discussions with the main bus operator, Go-North East, identified the
southbound Newcastle to Gateshead movement as being the most critical in
traffic / bus movement terms. Alternative options were discussed including terminating all bus services in Gateshead, use of the Metro, use of bridges
outside the City Centre. None of these were felt to be viable in terms of the
timescales involved and the need to maintain passenger use of the bus network
which will limit the risk of a significant transfer of the travelling public to the
4.2 Whilst car traffic appears to have dispersed to a number of other river crossings,
the displaced bus services have had to transfer to the Tyne Bridge. However,
this is by far the busiest of all of the river crossings and it was envisaged that
the result could be very significant peak hour delays to bus services through
additional journey times and congestion delays. This would reduce their
attractiveness to the public and risk a short, and possibly long term mode
transfer from public transport to the private car unless measures were taken to
mitigate these effects. History shows that such mode transfers are very difficult
4.3 Recent traffic surveys show that typical journey times for buses across the High
Level bridge (southbound from Groat market to Hill Street) was approximately 3
minutes in the morning peak hour. Surveys on the alternative route showed that
it would take buses this length of time to just travel the length of Mosley St up to Swan House roundabout, and that is without any displacement of traffic from
High Level Bridge. The additional delays getting around the roundabout, getting
on to and across the Tyne Bridge could easily have trebled the previous journey time.
It was clear that the alternative southbound route for buses would incur
significant time travel if traffic mitigation measures were not introduced to give a
movement advantage to buses.
4.4 It was therefore proposed that during the 8 month closure of the High Level
Bridge the following traffic arrangements would be will applied:-
? Southbound buses continue to use Newcastle City Centre, in particular
Eldon Square Bus Station, Newgate Street and Bigg Market;
? Southbound buses will turn left from Bigg Market – Groat Market into
Mosely Street. An off-side “Bus and Taxi” Lane has been introduced on
Mosley Street from its junction with Groat Market to Swan House
? No Waiting at Any Time (double yellow line) restriction introduced on the
north side of Mosley Street, plus a Peak Hour Loading Ban (8:00 am-
9:15 am, 4:00 pm-6:00 pm);
? No Waiting at Any time introduced on the north side of Collingwood
? New traffic arrangements introduced restricting movement from Swan
House roundabout onto the Tyne Bridge slip road which will be limited to
„Buses Only‟ from 07:00 am to 07:00 pm, and to „Buses and Taxi only‟ at
all other times. This restriction considered to be critical to the success of
the package of traffic mitigation measures. A free running segregated
left turn introduced to allow traffic leaving City Road to continue to use
the left hand lane to access the Tyne Bridge;
? Some inbound services transferred to Blackett Street in order to access
Eldon Square bus station;
? The traffic restrictions were introduced by means of a Temporary Traffic
Regulation Order only for the duration of the works.
Traffic Management (Permanent) 5.
5.1 National design standards in relation to possible vehicle collisions with bridge
structures have become more onerous over recent years. Network Rail have
carried out full assessments of the implications of these design standards on the High Level Bridge. These critical safety concerns now dictate that the vehicular
carriageway of the bridge will need to be lined on either side by motorway style
crash barrier to prevent a vehicle colliding with the bridge structure. The use of this barrier, and the lateral clearance space behind, means that there will only
be sufficient room on the High Level Bridge for one lane of traffic at a time.
Detailed traffic modelling work is currently being undertaken by Newcastle City
Council and Gateshead MBC to assess the implications of this width restriction
which will inevitably lead to the implementation of some form of traffic restriction
after the bridge re-opens. Once formulated, the proposals will be subject to the
normal consultations and statutory processes.
Background Papers and Contact Officer Details 6.
List of Background Papers:- held by Head of Planning & Transportation,
Newcastle City Council on file [ ]
Paul Fenwick - Newcastle City Council – 211 6058
c marpaf-high level bridge(EJ)