Independent watchdog appointed to handle Tyne Tunnel complaints

The crossing went cashless in November to cut CO2 emissions and reduce journey times. Credit: TT2

Complaints made about the Tyne Tunnel will be reviewed by an independent watchdog, after a series of objections and wrongly issued fines.

"The voices of Tyne Tunnel users are set to be heard more loudly and clearly", according to operator TT2, which has appointed Transport Focus to carry out a full review of how complaints are currently handled, and make recommendations to improve the process.

The watchdog will work with TT2 to ensure that improvements for motorists are taken on board. In addition, Transport Focus are also working towards setting up an independent survey of customers to help pinpoint any further areas for improvement and gauge overall customer satisfaction.

Payment at the Tyne Tunnels is no longer available at the point of passage. Credit:

In November 2021, TT2 switched to a cashless operation of open road tolling, monitored by vehicle registration cameras.

As a result of this, TT2 claims journey times, congestion and CO2 emissions have been reduced.

Shortly after changes were introduced, a petition demanding a change to the new payment system has garnered thousands of signatures in just 48 hours, after drivers claimed they were wrongly fined.

By the end of January, 11,000 fines were cancelled.

A woman from Kent, who has never been to the North East, made headlines after being wrongly fined £175 from the Tyne Tunnel - despite living 300 miles away.

The 62-year-old, who lives on the Isle of Sheppey, says she has "never been north of the Thames", so knew the ticket could not possibly be for her. 

Julie Bartlett and Susan Woodhead were wrongly fined by TT2 Credit: Family photo / NCJ Media

A Hampshire woman was also landed with 'a dozen' Tyne Tunnel fines despite never having used it. Susan Woodhead, who lives 300 miles away in Andover, was shocked when she received the letters and thought she was being scammed.

Susan received three letters from the company saying the fault had been recognised and they would note in their system the car involved wasn't hers - despite still receiving 'unpaid toll' letters for another month.

TT2 said 'additional checks' were being put in place to make sure errors such as this do not happen again and said their number plate technology has a high level of accuracy.

Philip Smith, TT2 Chief Executive, has 'great confidence' in the improvements Credit: TT2

Chief executive of TT2, Philip Smith said: “We welcome any advice and guidance Transport Focus can give us to improve the customer experience. Their breadth of knowledge and insight is unparalleled in Great Britain and they are best placed to act as the voice of the customer.”

“This doesn’t change the way that people need to feedback to us, but they can do so in the confidence that an independent statutory body is listening to motorist concerns.”

Chief executive of Transport Focus, Anthony Smith said: “This new partnership with TT2 should come as welcome news to all drivers who use the tunnel. By being involved in the oversight of the complaints and mediation process, road users can feel assured that their voice is being heard.

From 11 April 2021, the toll for the Tyne Tunnel will increase by 20p for drivers of Class 3 vehicles, including LGVs, Vans or Buses over 3.5 tonnes.

The North East Joint Transport Committee, which owns the Tyne Tunnels, confirmed that the new toll will increase from £3.70 to £3.90. Account holders will still receive a 10% discount on their journey, making the new toll for account holders £3.51, up from £3.33.

TT2 says the upkeep and construction costs of the tunnels "are solely funded by tolls, not council tax, and the toll increase, applied under the terms of the River Tyne (Tunnels) Order 2005, is necessary to cover the running and maintenance costs of the tunnels, in line with inflation."