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Last Updated: Thursday, 10 February, 2005, 14:48 GMT
Police defend conference security
Police near the Sage Gateshead
More than 1,000 police officers will be on duty at any one time
Police on Tyneside have denied security measures for a Labour party conference in Gateshead are excessive.

Commuters travelling into Gateshead and Newcastle faced delays of up to three hours on Thursday morning.

A combination of road and bridge closures brought queues of more than a mile in some cases.

Northumbria Police says the measures are essential for the security of those attending Labour's three-day spring conference at the Sage Gateshead.

The force's assistant chief constable David Warcup denied the security measures were "over the top".

He also blamed longer-than-expected preparation work on the Swing Bridge across the river Tyne for some of the delays.

The policing operation is expected to cost 2.8m with 1,600 officers involved.

Shuttle bus

Armed roadblocks are in place ahead of the three-day event, which starts on Friday.

The army is helping Northumbria Police with preparations and specialists from other forces have advised.

The massive security operation will take in an area around the Sage and Hilton hotel and roads will be closed.

The Swing Bridge, the only bridge which will be completely closed, will be shut from 2200 GMT on Thursday.

The Tyne Bridge will be closed to pedestrians, but a free shuttle bus will operate.

There will be no river traffic from Ouseburn to Dunston Staithes from Thursday evening to Sunday evening. Officers on jet-skis will patrol the Tyne.

Mr Warcup said he hoped traffic congestion would ease on Friday.

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