This is how much drivers were fined in the first month of the new Tyne Tunnel system
Drivers were hit with almost £2,000 in fines every day in the first month of the new cashless Tyne Tunnel system, figures have revealed.
Fines totalling £507,000 were issued in November, making ‘Unpaid Toll Charge Notices’ (UTCNs) worth 20% of the £2.8million of the tunnels’ revenue over the month.
But bosses have also admitted 43% of appeals over fines in November were upheld.
It comes after a string of complaints from readers hit by fines, and concerns raised by South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck after an influx of unhappy drivers contacting her office after issues with penalty charges.
The report released today shows almost 1.4 million vehicles travelled through the Tyne Tunnels in November following the introduction of a new open-road-tolling system early that month.
TT2, which operates the tunnels on behalf of Transport North East (TNE), also stressed plus points, however, after the company published its first dashboard of statistics following the introduction of the £9million system.
The average travel times both north, and southbound, are already lower than before the introduction of the changes even though the roadworks are due to continue until spring 2022.
Instead of stopping to pay, drivers now either pre-pay, or pay-by-midnight-the-day-after their journey, via the website, app, phone or by cash or card at a PayPoint outlet, with over 94% of customers making ‘compliant journeys’ within the first month.
Philip Smith, chief executive of TT2, said the figures show the way people are paying, the level of fines (UTCNs) for non-payment / non-compliance and how non-compliance compares to similar systems being run elsewhere in the country.
“Changing a tolling-system that has been in operation for decades, will naturally take customers some time to get used to – particularly if they are learning a new way to pay. We are working with customers to help them through the transition,” he said.
“It should be remembered that for every customer that doesn’t pay their toll, there are costs to recover that toll.
"The fine covers all additional costs associated with toll recovery and ensures that the customers who do pay their toll are not disadvantaged.”
When a driver receives a UTCN they can appeal against it, if they feel it has been unfairly issued. Around 43% of appeals have been upheld since the introduction of Tyne Pass.
Mr Smith said: “We anticipated an initial spike in UTCNs and so in agreement with Transport North East we have implemented some transitional rules as people got used to a new system and ways of paying.
"This has the benefit of allowing us to uphold more appeals and reflects on TT2’s commitment to working with our customers.
“We are confident our non-compliance rate is set to reduce.
"Already Tyne Pass non-compliance is lower than the equivalent period for similar systems at both Dartford and Mersey.
“Setting up a pre-paid account is proving to be popular with customers – 74% of journeys are already paid for this way – and is one way to ensure people don’t forget to pay. Alternatively, customers can pay before they travel by going online.”
He added: “It is in our best interests for as many customers as possible, to pay on time. TT2 is obliged to reduce the number of UTCNs, as we will be penalised and face a fine from the tunnel owners, TNE in the future if we fail to do so.”
TT2 said a regional marketing campaign explaining the changes and different ways to pay will continue into February 2022.
The company said it is issuing daily notices on all social media platforms to remind customers to pay, highlighting the different, effortless ways to pay the toll.
Mr Smith said, as anticipated, the first week saw some disruption and journey delays as travellers got used to a new system without barriers and traffic lights, but the new system has already seen a ‘significant reduction in CO2 emissions’ by removing the requirement for every vehicle travelling through the tunnels to stop and start again.
“We apologise for any inconvenience experienced during this transitional period,” he said.