Drivers in South Tyneside will soon be getting quicker Tyne Tunnel journeys - with a new high-tech system set to be in place within weeks.
Automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) technology – which will remove the need for permits or cash payment – is being tested with a view to going live by the end of the month.
In the short-term, it will lead to the phasing out of windscreen permits which use an electronic tag to signal to open the barriers.
In the longer term, it will form part of a planned ‘free flow’ system that will see toll booths on the north side of the tunnel removed.
Eventually, all tunnel users will have to log their car registration details with tunnel authorities, removing the opportunity to pay by cash.
Electronic signs informing drivers of ANPR’s imminent arrival have been positioned at both entrances to the tunnel.
Chris Ward, customer operations manager, said: “This development is designed to improve journey times and make using the Tyne Tunnel more reliable.
“We are currently checking the technology, but we anticipate ANPR will be live this month. As part of this change, we are phasing out permit use. No new permits are being issued.
“Customers who have permits can keep on using them, they won’t have to change to ANPR overnight, and there is no set time for when permit use will stop.”
To sign up to ANPR, drivers must log on to the Tyne Tunnel website and add their vehicle details.
Mr Ward said the permit and ANPR payment methods cost motorists £1,53 per journey, compared to the £1.70 cash price.
Last month, The North East Combined Authority’s transport sub-committee was informed of the free flow system plan.
A detailed report on its practical, financial and legal implications will go before a future meeting of the committee.