Tyne Tunnel bosses confirm date for going completely cashless - this is when barriers will be removed for good
The Tyne Tunnel will be going completely cashless on November 8, it has been confirmed.
Transport bosses have announced the date when the crossing’s new ‘open road tolling’ system will be brought into action, meaning drivers now have less than two weeks to prepare for the massive change.
From Monday, November 8, vehicles will simply drive straight through the tunnels without stopping to pay at the toll booths on their north side – with barriers and traffic lights gone and cameras installed to automatically register journeys instead.
Motorists will either have to pay their fee via a pre-paid account with tunnel operator TT2 or do so before midnight the day after their journey using an online pay later service, an automated telephone line, or at PayPoint tills found in shops.
Once the new ‘Tyne Pass’ system comes into force, there will be no way of paying a toll in cash or with a contactless bank card at the tunnel itself – with all of the existing toll plazas to be demolished over the coming months.
The switch is the biggest change that motorists will have experienced at the busy crossing since the second tunnel was opened in 2011.
Bosses have promised that people will experience faster journeys as nobody will have to stop at a toll booth, claiming it will save 1,944 hours a week in queuing time, and a colossal 90% reduction in CO2 emissions around the tunnel thanks to traffic no longer being brought to a standstill.
However, there have been worries raised by some users over how people without access to the internet will cope with the new payment requirements.
There have also been many complaints since the tunnels first introduced a ‘pay later’ ticket option last year, which has seen drivers hit with heavy fines if they are unable to pay their toll by midnight the next day.
At one stage, almost one in five of the drivers taking a pay later ticket were issued with a penalty notice – which can rise to up to £100, plus the original £1.90 fee.
TT2 chief executive Phil Smith said: “We are incredibly excited to see open-road-tolling go live – it’s a historic moment and a key move in modernising the tunnels.
“For the millions of customers who use the tunnel each year, gone are the days of scrambling around for change and waiting in queues. This will greatly improve their experience and make it easier and more convenient for them to pay. And, in the case of those who pre-pay, this makes their journeys cheaper too.
“We have undertaken a gradual, phased approach to changing the tunnels over to open-road-tolling to give drivers time to adjust and understand the changes to the way the tunnels will work from now on.”
TT2 said that around 70% of tunnel users already use a pre-paid account and below 20% pay with cash.
Gateshead Council leader Martin Gannon, who chairs the North East Joint Transport Committee, said the scheme would “deliver major environmental benefits for our region”.