A NORTH-EAST tunnel system, used by thousands of people every day, is to be refurbished in a £4.9m deal.

The grade II-listed Tyne Tunnel pedestrian and cycle tunnels, under the River Tyne, will be fitted with two new lifts, replacing original wooden escalators, which are still believed to be Europe's longest of their type.

The work on the 274m purpose-built tunnels, which link North and South Tyneside, will be carried out by Newcastle-based GB Building Solutions, who will update the tunnels' ageing mechanical and electrical systems.

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Martin Smout, GB Group chairman and chief executive, said, “The tunnels are a key transport link in Tyneside and of historic significance, and the restoration and refurbishment will ensure they remain an active part of transport links for years to come.”

The project starts on Monday, May 20, and will take about a year.