How we did it ... Tyneside quay upgrade set to increase tourism

Project: Renovation and updating of a quay to enable it to cater again for the largest liners such as the QE2.

Background: The 80-year-old quay had deteriorated and was no longer capable of accommodating big ships.

Who is behind it? English Partnerships funded the £4.5 million project after inheriting the quay from the former Tyne and Wear Development Corporation.

Project aims: To modernise the old quay, allowing it to serve as a stop-off point for major liners to bring more tourists to the North East.

Skills involved: Regional planning, technical expertise, project management, maritime building.

The Tyne Commission Quay has a rich history. It has played a crucial role in the North East's tourist industry and has for decades acted as a "lay-by berth" for great liners.

After it opened in the 1920s, the quay fulfilled the need for a deep-water facility in the region that could handle ships taking tourists from the UK to Scandinavia. But after 80 years of service it became clear that the ageing structure was in desperate need of renovation.

Project manager David Gluyas, a senior engineer with English Partnerships, says the process of designing the quay started 12 to 18 months before site works began in June last year. The engineering work, which took 12 months to complete, was carried out by Birse Civils Ltd, part of Balfour Beatty Civil Engineering. Atkins acted as consultant engineers.

New tubular piling and a replacement reinforced concrete deck were needed for the project. Rubber fendering was installed to accommodate large vessels. The 335m quay is capable of accommodating ships with drafts of up to 9m. The design team had to overcome a number of serious problems, such as the age of the quay's walls and the proximity of local homes.

"We had concerns about the noise that the work would create because there is an apartment block very close to the quay," says Gluyas. "But we have not received any complaints. We ensured that there was close liaison with the community. Once people were involved in the process and could see the benefits, they did not complain."

After completion, the quay was launched in style, with the QE2 making its only UK stopover during its 40th anniversary voyage last September. It was renamed Northumbrian Quay by the ship's master, Captain Ian McNaught, to reflect its importance to the area.

English Partnerships chief executive John Walker says the quay was not the type of project that the agency is used to delivering. "We have more than 1,700 regeneration schemes across the country, most of which are creating sustainable communities with homes, businesses and community facilities. Funding the refurbishment of a quay was an unusual project for us," he says.

"However, this is economic regeneration at its best. Our £4 million-plus investment means that the Port of Tyne can attract more ships, which in turn means that museums, galleries, restaurants and other cultural destinations the length and breadth of the North East can expect more custom."

Port of Tyne Authority acting managing director Mike Davison agrees that the quay is of huge importance to the region. "Northumbrian Quay is a new gateway to the North East. Its refurbishment will have a dramatic effect on our ability to welcome even more visiting cruise ships, which bring with them tourism benefits for the whole region," he says.

"We have been steadily increasing the number of cruise ships visiting the North East in recent years. Now we will be able to set even more ambitious targets for next year and beyond," Davison suggests.

The Tyne's position as a cruise liner destination has been secured for the future. Another visit by the QE2 next year will also mean that people from all over the world will have easy access to the many tourist attractions that are on offer in the North East.

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