North Tyneside Tories call for 'more ethical' Tyne Tunnel charging system to help 'working-class' users

Councillors from across the river have added their voices to calls for changes to be made to the Tyne Tunnel’s charging system.

The crossing made the switch to a cashless ‘free-flow’ model last November, meaning drivers can no longer pay at the tunnels’ traditional toll plazas using cash or a bank card – and must instead use either a pre-paid account or pay online afterwards.

The change has come into force in a bid to reduce journey times and cut pollution, but has sparked a major backlash from users complaining it has been littered with errors that have resulted in people being incorrectly slapped with heavy fines and pursued by bailiffs.

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Traffic at the Tyne Tunnel's south entrance.

The petition, started by Gary Spedding, calls for an “ethical system”.

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South Shields’ Labour MP Emma Lewell-Buck is among those backing campaigners, and has raised the issue in Parliament.

Now North Tyneside Council’s Conservative group has proposed a motion calling for reform to the system.

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Teams removing the barriers.

If the motion is passed the authority would call tunnel operator TT2 Limited to cancel all unpaid toll charges issued in the last six months prior to January 1 2022.

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The operator would also be asked to increase the time period for which to ‘pay later’ from 48 hours to five working days.

TT2 would also be told to “engage in a concerted advertising campaign to ensure people are fully aware of how the Tyne Tunnel now works and encourage frequent travellers to sign up for a pre-paid account.”

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The Tories also want North Tyneside Council to tell tunnel bosses to scrap the current penalty charge system and replace it with a “more ethical structure.”

The Conservatives say that those who miss their deadline to pay should receive an initial fine of no more than £20, which should be reduced to £5.00 if paid within 14 days of the date the fine was generated.

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The motion said: “These amounts are more ethical and affordable to the average user of the Tyne Tunnel – many of whom come from working-class backgrounds or may be suffering from hardship due to the current economic climate.

“If paying a penalty charge then the original ‘toll fare’ should be taken out of the fine paid so that people are not being charged extra. If a person fails to pay the initial £20 fine within 28 days, it should rise to no more than £40 and only after a period of 42 days should this be passed to a debt collection agency where “additional administrative charges” of no more than a further £25 should be added.”

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Finally, the motion wants TT2 to review its appeals process and “produce clear guidance that is publicly available on what the policies of TT2 Limited are in relation to travel through the tunnel, what the toll prices are, and the penalty charge procedures. Ensuring that each individual case is considered carefully and with sensitivity.”

North Tyneside councillors will vote on the motion at a meeting of North Tyneside Council on Thursday.

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The Local Democracy Reporting Service has approached TT2 for comment.

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