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Tyne Tunnels Delayed Again by Asbestos Discovery

Asbestos has been discovered in the Tyne tunnels, but why is this so dangerous that refurbishment has been pushed back by more than a year?

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The Tyne pedestrian and cyclist tunnels have been closed for refurbishment since May 2013. Originally, the tunnels were due to be completed by August 2014, but now, due to the discovery of more asbestos, it likely they will not be reopened in 2017.

Alastair Swan, principal engineer for the North East Combined Authority (NECA) commented, “The discovery of further asbestos was made during our inspection of the tunnels following the collapse of the original contractor, GB Building Solutions.

"We had been advised that they had completed the asbestos removal works.

“We are now going out to tender for the removal or encapsulation of the remaining asbestos.

"We expect the asbestos works to commence early in 2016, and we are committed to the complete treatment of this hazardous material.

"We are looking to complete the asbestos work as quickly as possible to enable us to continue the refurbishment works.”

You may wonder how the discovery of asbestos could be so significant that it warrants a delay. Asbestos is a highly dangerous substance. People exposed to asbestos are at high risk of contracting lung diseases and cancer, such as Mesothelioma. The handling and removal of asbestos should therefore only be carried out by professionals with specialist equipment for protection. The discovery of even a small amount of asbestos should be treated as extremely hazardous so as to minimise any possibility of exposure.

But who is responsible for the wellbeing of workers and the public when asbestos is discovered on their premises? This duty belongs to those who manage the non-domestic premises. In accordance with the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012, the responsibility includes to:

  • take reasonable steps to find out if there are materials containing asbestos in non-domestic premises, and if so, its amount, where it is and what condition it is in;
  • presume materials contain asbestos unless there is strong evidence that they do not;
  • make, and keep up-to-date, a record of the location and condition of the asbestos- containing materials - or materials which are presumed to contain asbestos;
  • assess the risk of anyone being exposed to fibres from the materials identified;
  • prepare a plan that sets out in detail how the risks from these materials will be managed;
  • take the necessary steps to put the plan into action;
  • periodically review and monitor the plan and the arrangements to act on it so that the plan remains relevant and up-to-date;
  • provide information on the location and condition of the materials to anyone who is liable to work on or disturb them.

The discovery of asbestos in the Tyne tunnels is not an isolated incident. Earlier in October 2015 we blogged on the discovery of asbestos in the tunnels beneath London’s St Pancras Hospital.

Anyone exposed to asbestos should register this exposure as soon as possible, and local authority have a responsibility to ensure that their tax payers are properly advised of any potential dangers, not to mention those who work on the sites.

The Chest and Asbestos Disease team at Slater and Gordon have worked with many workers and families affected by asbestos-related illness.

If you think you may have been exposed to asbestos at work call the expert Personal Injury Solicitors at Slater and Gordon Lawyers on 0800 844 0275 or contact us online.

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