Fresh calls for new Tees bridge between Hartlepool and Redcar - this is why supporters say it is needed
Fresh calls for a crossing to link up Hartlepool and Redcar have been sounded – but doubts remain about its viability.
Attention has been firmly focussed on the £400million Tees Crossing project on the A19 on Teesside.
But studies have been carried out this year to see whether a link between Redcar and Hartlepool would be possible.
Former Hartlepool Council leader Christopher Akers-Belcher championed the “eastern crossing” idea at a Tees Valley transport meeting – calling on leaders to make a decision on the plan.
Coun Akers-Belcher said: “If there is no appetite within the combined authority to progress the eastern crossing, I would rather that was made public.
“The work that’s been undertaken proves it’s viable – it could be self-funding with a toll.
“I just sometimes feel we’re getting so far down the line with our committed spending to the Tees Crossing, rather than borrowing for an Eastern crossing that would take cars off the road on the existing crossing.
“I just don’t understand why there is this lack of appetite to do it when something might be happening with the SSI site.”
After the meeting, Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen said they had already done a “huge amount of work” into the eastern Tees crossing but the financial benefit could not be shown yet.
“Until we increase activity around the South Tees Development Corporation (STDC) site we won’t be able to get any money for an eastern crossing because it just does not stack up financially,” he added.
“We need to increase development at the STDC – the eastern crossing is important but we need a reality check.
“To me, it’s going to cost more than the Tees Crossing and that’s a £400m project.
“I would love to be able to do it to connect Hartlepool and Redcar but the government needs to be able to see more bang for its buck – then they don’t have an excuse not to fund it.”
A long drive
The vision for the STDC site is to bring 20,000 jobs on a vast stretch of industrial land south of the Tees by attracting investors in the next 25 years.
The Transporter Bridge is the most downstream crossing on the Tees between Middlesbrough and Port Clarence.
Officers have explained any eastern idea would be much further into the distance than the existing A19 flyover enhancement plans.
But Coun Akers-Belcher was keen to bang the drum for the eastern link.
He added: “I drive to Redcar as my granddaughter goes to school there and it takes 40 minutes.
“I would spend less money going to collect her on a toll than I would driving all the way from Hartlepool to Redcar.
“It’s also about accessibility to jobs – I would rather the combined authority came out and said it because then the local authorities could form their own business cases and do it ourselves.
“If there was a profitable case, it would actually help the revenue of the councils involved.”
His stance also received the backing of independent councillor Wayne Davies who wanted the eastern crossing to be pushed up the agenda.
The Redcar and Cleveland cabinet member added: “The Tees Crossing is going to be madness when they start doing all the roadworks putting this bit in.
“Whereas, with a completely different area of crossing going in, you’re not going to have all that road network paralysed even more.
“Then you can potentially reassess the Tees Crossing further up – and in years to come, you might find it’s taking up a lot of that slack.”
A lot of work needed
Despite the enthusiasm, officers were keen to keep the ideas in perspective.
Tom Bryant, transport officer at the TVCA, said the A19 crossing would address “a key pinch point” on the network given 112,000 vehicles used it every day.
He added: “That would benefit the whole of the North East and, arguably, the whole country.
“It’s a key priority and has been for a long time, whereas the eastern crossing is slightly different.
“It’s linked to economic growth and what we’re doing in the east of the Tees Valley – and while there is a concept there, there is more work which needs to be done on how it might work.”