North East Connected

Fast-track progress following launch of Tyne Pass at Tyne Tunnels

Almost 1.4 million vehicles travelled through the Tyne Tunnels in November following the introduction of a new open-road-tolling system early that month.

The average travel times both north, and southbound, are already lower than before the introduction of the changes even though the roadworks are due to continue until spring 2022.

Instead of stopping to pay, drivers now either pre-pay, or pay-by-midnight-the-day-after their journey, via the website, app, phone or by cash or card at a PayPoint outlet, with over 94% of customers making compliant journeys within the first month.

TT2, which operates the tunnels on behalf of Transport North East (TNE), has published its first dashboard of statistics following the introduction of a system that represents an investment of £9 million. This dashboard reveals the numbers of journeys, the delay times northbound and southbound, the way people are paying, the level of fines (UTCNs) for non-payment / non-compliance and how non-compliance compares to similar systems being run elsewhere in the country.

Chief Executive at TT2, Philip Smith said: “Changing a tolling-system that has been in operation for decades, will naturally take customers some time to get used to – particularly if they are learning a new way to pay. We are working with customers to help them through the transition.”

TT2 has published the Tyne Tunnel revenues for November including the income raised via UTCNs, representing just 20% of toll revenues in the month. Philip Smith added: “It should be remembered that for every customer that doesn’t pay their toll, there are costs to recover that toll. The fine covers all additional costs associated with toll recovery and ensures that the customers who do pay their toll are not disadvantaged.”

When a driver receives a UTCN they can appeal against it, if they feel it has been unfairly issued. Around 43% of appeals have been upheld since the introduction of Tyne Pass. Philip Smith of TT2 explained: “We anticipated an initial spike in UTCNs and so in agreement with Transport North East we have implemented some transitional rules as people got used to a new system and ways of paying. This has the benefit of allowing us to uphold more appeals and reflects on TT2’s commitment to working with our customers.

“We are confident our non-compliance rate is set to reduce. Already Tyne Pass non-compliance is lower than the equivalent period for similar systems at both Dartford and Mersey.

“Setting up a pre-paid account is proving to be popular with customers – 74% of journeys are already paid for this way – and is one way to ensure people don’t forget to pay. Alternatively, customers can pay before they travel by going online.”

“It is in our best interests for as many customers as possible, to pay on time. TT2 is obliged to reduce the number of UTCNs, as we will be penalised and face a fine from the tunnel owners, TNE in the future if we fail to do so.”

With the above in mind, a regional marketing campaign explaining the changes and many ways to pay is set to continue well into February 2022. TT2 is issuing daily notices on all social media platforms to remind customers to pay, highlighting the different, effortless ways to pay the toll.

Week one resulted in some disruption and journey delays as travellers got used to a new system without barriers and traffic lights. Despite this, the introduction of the new system has already seen a significant reduction in CO2 emissions by removing the requirement for every vehicle travelling through the tunnels, to stop and start again which is known to create more CO2 emissions than a vehicle moving continuously.

Philip Smith added: “We anticipated some delays in the initial days as people got used to the signage and new road layout. We apologise for any inconvenience experienced during this transitional period.

“Delays were primarily caused by the impact of change and the roadworks that have been necessary as we prepared and started to demolish and remove the toll booth plazas.”

 “There are still roadworks in place but once demolition and construction of the new lanes are complete, things will continue to improve, and the road will simply be a continuation of the dual carriageway.

“Once the initial roadworks are complete and most people adapt to the new system, Tyne Pass will even further improve the travel experience and make it easier and more convenient for drivers to use the Tyne Tunnel.”

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