Power cables over River Tyne could be removed – in 'vital' step to help create thousands of jobs

The overhead power cables over the River Tyne, viewed from Jarrow.
The overhead power cables over the River Tyne, viewed from Jarrow. -Credit:Newcastle Chronicle

Energy bosses are investigating how to remove a troublesome set of power cables that it is claimed are blocking thousands of new jobs coming to Tyneside.

Local politicians and businesses have long called for action to bring down the overhead power lines that stretch between Jarrow and Howdon across the River Tyne. The presence of the cables has been pinpointed as a major barrier to firms based along the river, preventing taller ships or wind turbine parts from travelling beyond them, and it has been claimed that removing them could unlock 4,000 new tech and manufacturing jobs and give the region’s economy a £1.2 billion boost.

Energy regulator Ofgem has now confirmed that options are being looked at to reroute the power lines, which could involve a new cable route being drilled underneath the river. North Tyneside MP Mary Glindon recently urged Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to press the issue, calling for a “commitment from National Grid to implement its clear legal obligation and fund this vital work”.

After hearing that work now is underway to finally drive the project forward, the Labour MP said: “My recent question to the Prime Minister has prompted action on the problems posed to local businesses over the power cables over the Tyne that impede vital movements and potentially thousands of quality jobs. I’m told that the regulator Ofgem has initiated a £10 million development study to identify how the cables can be removed and how that will be funded. It may take time, but the process has finally begun. I will work with local authorities and businesses for actions that benefit the entire North East.”

The overhead power cables just downstream of the Tyne Tunnel mean that nothing taller than 83m can pass beyond that point, denying bigger, next-generation vessels access to major engineering and energy firms based in Walker and Wallsend. A spokesperson for Ofgem told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that the regulator had been “working closely with Government and National Grid Electricity Transmission (NGET) to explore potential solutions relating to the power cable currently running over the River Tyne”.

They added: “Our primary responsibility is to protect the interests of energy consumers, however we also recognise the likely benefits that removal of the cable would bring to the port, business and wider regional economy. NGET are therefore exploring potential options to reroute the cable, as well as the associated costs, and we will consider these options carefully once they are available.”

A bid to reroute the cables was previously included in a submission to the Government from the North of Tyne Combined Authority (NTCA) in 2021. The NTCA said at the time that doing so would unlock 4,000 new jobs and safeguard another 5,000 existing ones against the threat of businesses losing out on major contracts to rival ports.