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Operator of Tyne Tunnels issues warning to serial toll evaders

The operator behind Tyne Tunnels has warned serial toll evaders who regularly choose not to pay their tunnel passage may be taken to court and prosecuted.

The warning comes after it was confirmed that two motorists who made dozens of repeated journeys through the Tyne Tunnels without paying have been successfully prosecuted and fined at Newcastle Magistrates Court*. These are the first examples since the new open road toll system was introduced.

Philip Smith, CEO of TT2, said: “Serial toll evaders are a small proportion of motorists using the Tyne Tunnels. However, this small proportion who repeatedly refuse to pay the toll are a cost to other motorists and ultimately the public purse.

“They should be in no doubt that we will prosecute serial toll evaders, so we are able to continue providing and improving the service for the majority of tunnel users who pay for their journeys.”

The Tyne Tunnels are private roads that do not benefit from centrally funded maintenance, refurbishment, or operational support. As a private road, tolls continue to be collected to cover the costs for the operation and maintenance of the tunnels, as well as the client’s own costs of debt repayments from the construction of the second tunnel.

Smith says almost 97% of drivers pay their toll without issue, which he argues is testament to the hard work of the team at TT2 and the strong partnership TT2 has with its ultimate client, the North East Combined Authority.

A half-year review of all the statistics collected since the toll booths were removed in November 2021, shows a positive overall picture of the tunnels’ performance and that drivers have adapted well to using a cashless system.

Under the new system, cameras automatically register journeys and payment needs to be made before midnight the following day.

The number of Unpaid Toll Charge Notices (UTCNs) being issued as a percentage of journeys made in the month are down from 5.39% in month one (Nov ‘21), to 3.26% in May ’22. This is an ongoing trend.

In August 1.597m journeys were made through the tunnels, the busiest month on record in their 55-year history.

Smith added: “The recent appraisal report conducted by Transport North East conformed we have delivered faster, smoother journeys, less congestion, reduced emissions and better local air quality and they were the main reasons behind the decision to launch open-road-tolling.

“The increased levels of traffic through the tunnels since the move to open-road-tolling shows that most of our customers recognise we are delivering an improved travel experience. For any motorists that are still struggling to adjust to the changes we continue to help where we can with ongoing campaigns, transitional rules and a customer service team that is available seven days a week. For the small group who simply resent paying, we will be tough on that group of offenders.”

When a UTCN is issued the motorist has 14 days to pay the £30 + the toll; it then becomes £60 + the toll when it reaches 15-28 days when you are also sent a reminder to pay. If no payment is made by 28 days, the fine rises to £100 + the toll and is then sent to a third-party debt collector. You can then appeal, and the case is frozen until you receive a response.

*Two defendants were successfully prosecuted on behalf of TT2 Ltd for offences contrary to the Tyne Tunnels Byelaws 2021 at Newcastle Magistrates Court, on Thursday August 18, 2022.

By admin