Barriers at the Tyne Tunnel could be completely removed by 2021 — with transport chiefs set to spend £80million to make it happen.
It was revealed last year that tunnels operator TT2 had begun drawing up plans to cut queues at the busy crossing by installing new technology that will eventually see toll booths removed.
Bosses have now confirmed that they hope to have the major upgrade completed within the next two years.
TT2 chief executive Phil Smith told the North East Joint Transport Committee’s Tyne and Wear sub-committee that the firm is planning to invest £80m in the project up to 2021.
Advanced Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras have already been brought in at the tunnel crossing to allow drivers to pay online for their journey and pass straight through the barriers.
But further upgrades would see the barriers removed entirely — meaning drivers with a permit can pass straight through the tunnels without having to stop at all.
Those without a permit displayed will have their number plate recognised by cameras and will then be able to pay later online, over the phone, or in person at certain shops.
Mr Smith said: “It is an opportunity. The entire team is really excited about this.”
He added that the plans will now move onto a phase of “intensive” discussion before final proposals are presented to regional transport bosses.
TT2 customer operations manager, Chris Ward, said there has been a “very positive” response to the ANPR camera roll-out and that the new cameras have a 99% accuracy rate so far.
He also revealed plans for a direct debit payment system for permit holders, a new app that will warn drivers when there is disruption around the tunnel, and confirmed that a deal has been struck with Vodafone and O2 to provide phone signal inside the tunnel.
Daniel Holland , Local Democracy Reporting Service