Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Tunnel under City Passes the 25,000th Visitor Mark

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Tunnel under City Passes the 25,000th Visitor Mark

Article excerpt

Byline: Tony Henderson Environment Editor

ATUNNEL which has turned into a top tourist attraction has welcomed its 25,000th visitor.

In 2010, the Ouseburn Trust took over from Newcastle City Council in operating guided tours of the Victoria Tunnel.

The tunnel was built in 1842 to transport coal from Leazes Main Colliery at Spital Tongues under the city to riverside staithes at the mouth of the Ouseburn.

In 1939, it was converted into an air raid shelter which could take up to 9,000 people.

Although the tunnel's 25 volunteer guides can take only 15 people per tour, such has been the popularity of the excursions that the 25,0000 mark has been passed in just over four years.

The tunnel tours are also a hit with school parties and company bookings. The tunnel has staged an exhibition of work by street artists and, last October, the 25-strong Cobweb orchestra performed a concert underground in what was a sell-out event. Also in October, the tunnel was used for a lighting and sound installation as part of the Tusk festival. Visitor numbers have increased steadily from 2,500 in 2010 to 8,160 in 2014 for the two-hour tours, which cover three quarters of a mile in the tunnel, to the backdrop of sound effects of coal wagons and air raid sirens.

Tunnel co-ordinator Clive Goodwin said: "Visitors experience how Newcastle citizens dealt with the damp and dark conditions sheltering from bombing raids and also see how the Victorian engineers coped with tunnelling 85ft under the streets of Newcastle on a 2.5-mile route to the Tyne. The tours provide what is a unique and quirky experience. There is an element of excitement in walking under the streets of Newcastle." The route of the tunnel takes in Claremont Road, past the Great North Museum and under Barras Bridge, then beneath Northumbria University city campus, the Central Motorway East, and Shieldfield to St Dominic's Church on the corner of Crawhall Road and New Bridge Street. …

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