Tyne Tunnel to go cashless next month to allow for 'drive straight through' system

Vehicles will be able to drive through the Tyne Tunnel without stopping when a new cashless system comes into force next month.

From Monday, November 8, vehicles will simply drive straight through the tunnels without stopping to pay at the toll booths - 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. 

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."

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.

Why the change?

Bosses have promised that people will experience faster journeys as nobody will have to stop at a toll booth.

They claim it will save 1,944 hours a week in queuing time, and a 90 oer cent reduction in CO2 emissions around the tunnel thanks to traffic no longer being brought to a standstill.

How does it work?

The new system will work using an Automatic Number Plate Recognition cameras in the tunnels which will recognise vehicle registrations and deduct the toll from the associated acccount.

What account-holders need to know?

Pre-paid account-holders will not be able to top up funds from 10pm on Friday, November 5, until 6am on Monday, November 8.

What are the concerns?

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.

But TT2 said that around 70% of tunnel users already use a pre-paid account and below 20% pay with cash.

"A positive step"

Gateshead Council leader Martin Gannon, who chairs the North East Joint Transport Committee, said the scheme would "deliver major environmental benefits for our region".

He added: "The investment in a more modern operation will provide major journey time savings, alongside the significant environmental benefits of the scheme.

"This is a positive step towards the decarbonisation of the transport network and achieving our vision of moving to a green, health, dynamic and thriving North East as outlined in the North East Transport Plan."

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