Engineers have begun the four-year task of restoring the Tyne Bridge to its former glory.

Lane closures marking the start of the main phase of the world-famous bridge’s refurbishment came into force on Tuesday morning, with the crossing set to undergo its first major maintenance in more than 20 years.

A much-needed facelift and essential structural repairs for one of the North East’s most iconic landmarks have been in the pipeline for years, during which time it has fallen into an increasingly dilapidated state, and the scheme was the subject of a protracted funding row between local councils and the Government.

But the vast project is expected to have a huge impact on Tyneside for the next few years, with the capacity of the bridge to be cut in half for a large section of the works and drivers urged to avoid the area if possible.

There are off-peak lane closures in place between 9.30am and 3.30pm today [Tuesday, April 2] and tomorrow, plus a full overnight closure starting at 8pm on Wednesday until 6am the following day.

And starting from 6am on Thursday, April 4, the Tyne Bridge will be reduced to one lane in each direction 24 hours a day for at least the next two years.

With the grade II* listed crossing being one of the busiest routes in the region and a key route into Newcastle city centre, carrying around 70,000 vehicles per day, the engineering works are expected to result in heavy traffic disruption – with warnings that rush hour journeys could take 40 minutes longer than usual because of the congestion.

Motorists have been urged to make the switch to public transport, cycling, or walking if they can, or to use other routes such as the A1 or the Tyne Tunnel to get across the river.

Pamela Holmes, Newcastle City Council’s assistant director of transport, said: “We’re delighted that work is now starting on this important project and know that many people across the region are keen to see the Tyne Bridge fully restored. The lane closures that are needed during the work programme will have a significant impact on traffic and we are warning people to expect congestion and delays.

“We’re urging people to plan ahead and help ease the pressure on the road network on and around the Tyne Bridge by switching to public transport, using park and ride facilities, walking or cycling where possible. We’ve got full travel advice at and we’re asking everyone to do their bit and help us keep Tyneside moving.”

Council bosses said on Tuesday that a second overnight closure might be needed on Thursday if bad weather conditions hamper engineers’ progress this week.

And the full impact of the lane reductions is not expected to be seen until after the Easter school holidays, with traffic due to return to its highest levels from Monday, April 15.

As well as a full repaint, the bridge is also in line for many other repairs to protect its structural integrity – including steelwork and masonry repairs, waterproofing and road resurfacing.

It is hoped that contractors Esh Construction will be able to finish the restoration in time to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Tyne Bridge’s opening in October 2028.

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The refurbishment of the bridge and associated improvements to the Central Motorway are expected to cost more than £41 million.

The Government signed off in February on an initial £35.2 million funding for the scheme, but has promised a further £6 million to cover the full costs – with local councils still awaiting confirmation of that uplift, which was announced as part of Rishi Sunak’s Network North programme last October.

Preparatory works that have already seen scaffolding erected around the Gateshead side of the bridge began last September, paid for by Newcastle and Gateshead councils, but the bulk of the engineering works could not start until the Department for Transport had delivered its funding.