Humber Bridge 'chaos' as drivers given huge fines over system glitch

Drivers on the Humber Bridge have been fined hundreds of pounds before seeing their complaints go unanswered for weeks amid "chaos" in the bridge's toll system.Other drivers have seen their huge fines quashed, refunded or inexplicably vanish.After the bridge's tolling booths closed to protect staff and drivers during lockdown, all drivers had to use the bridge's "tag lanes", normally reserved for those with a prepaid HumberTAG account, and then pay their toll online.To give drivers the chance to get used to the new system, the time limit to pay these tolls was extended from 72 hours to 14 days.With thousands of vehicles crossing the bridge every day, a spokesman for the Humber Bridge conceded that this change had placed a "significant strain" on their systems, resulting in a "huge backlog" of fines.

Tracy Fretwell

Tracy Fretwell logged on to the Humber Bridge online portal last week to pay a £34 charge for late payments she knew had been incurred on two crossings on September 1.But she said she was "panicking" when she found the fine had actually rocketed to £94.After ringing an operator, she was told the fine still read £34 on the system on their screens and that she should reload the site.When she did so, the fine actually increased further, to £102.50.She was told to end the call and send a screenshot of the charge via email.She did so and heard nothing in response. When she logged on three days later, the entire charge had disappeared completely.After writing a complaint, she received an email from a staff member on the Unpaid Toll Team blaming the huge hike in her fine on a "glitch" in the website.She was told the IT department had subsequently closed the fine in error, rather than amending it, and the operator had not followed it up or let Mrs Fretwell know.Mrs Fretwell said that, after sharing her story on Facebook, she received dozens of responses from others who had very similar experiences."How many people are just paying these fines when they have no idea if they're actually right?" she said."They're not answerable to anybody, they're policing their own fining system and it clearly isn't working. There's something massively wrong."

Jamie Gillyon

Jamie Gillyon, from Beverley, said he "reluctantly" paid his massive £301 fine in July to stop it increasing day by day with further undefined and seemingly arbitrary charges.He said he does not know for sure how many crossings he was charged for - or when they were - because the dates that were referenced were years out of date.Mr Gillyon, who works in security, lost his job during lockdown and received the huge fine just two weeks after beginning self-employed work after a three-month gap in employment.After emailing to request a breakdown of the charges, and submitting a refund request in the process, he said he has still not received any written response more than a month later - and is still £301 out of pocket.He was one of numerous drivers who said, unlike the extension to 14 days, the return to the 72-hour limit on June 29 was not publicised effectively enough.A spokesperson for the Humber Bridge said:

The statement continued: "When someone emails us regarding a charge, we immediately put a stop to any further admin charges on their account while we investigate the claim. They receive an automated response email explaining that they will not be liable for further charges incurred whilst they wait for a response."Unfortunately, however, the HumberTAG website is not able to recognise this, and therefore keeps adding to the charge over time."This means that if customers keep checking the website after they have contacted us, the debt will appear to be increasing. But what they owe isn’t increasing - it is frozen from the moment they contacted us."On an extremely rare occasion, there is an error that can affect the system, as in Mrs Fretwell’s case. A previous charge that had been paid was showing as unpaid but once this was identified, we ensured Mrs Fretwell only paid the amount she owed."During the Covid-19 pandemic, we had to direct all traffic through the TAG lanes to protect our staff, including those customers without a tag."This has put a significant strain on our systems and as a result, we are currently dealing with a huge backlog of customer emails. We’d like to thank customers for their patience and understanding."Finally, we encourage regular bridge users who wish to use the TAG lane to apply for a HumberTAG and receive discounted crossings."