The multi-million-pound project to modernise and transition the Tyne Tunnels to open-road-tolling is now complete, with new, fixed road signage signalling an end to all the works – as the river crossing records its busiest-ever month.
Bucking the trend of traffic levels across the rest of the region – which have remained broadly flat – the number of vehicles using the tunnels are now at record levels, with July 2022 being the busiest month in the toll-road’s 55-year history, and May 2022 taking second place.
Just under 1.6 million vehicles (1,594,658) passed through the tunnels last month. The tunnels also recorded its busiest ever ‘normal day’ (i.e. a weekday, during term-time) when over 62,500 vehicles travelled through the tunnels on 15th July.
Permanent, blue signs informing drivers it is a toll road, to pay by midnight the next day, and how to pay, are now in place – which were designed with the help of a panel of the general public.
Data recently released shows, six months since the introduction of open-road-tolling, journey times are down; C02 emissions are slashed; and the number of people paying their toll on time, is rising.
Under the new system, cameras automatically register journeys and payment needs to be made online, by phone or at a PayPoint.
TT2’s CEO, Philip Smith, which operates the Tyne Tunnels, says: “By removing the toll booths, we have been able to shave valuable time off journeys which is all the more important now that we are experiencing record levels of vehicles passing through. Open-road-tolling is helping us keep queues as short as possible during peak times.
“The fact that traffic levels have remained broadly the same on other regional road hotspots, yet the Tyne Tunnels traffic is rising, is testament to the success of the switch to open-road-tolling. The tunnels have become more popular because journeys are quicker, smoother and the expanded range of payment options has increased convenience for many drivers.
“There is now also less congestion, reduced emissions and better local air quality which are some of the other key reasons behind the decision to ditch the toll-booths.”
Northbound journeys are 33 seconds faster and southbound trips, 29 seconds quicker – on average across a day than before the new system was introduced (June 2022 figures).
CO₂ emissions have been reduced by 90% since open-road-tolling went live. Each month, the CO₂ saving equates to around 2,640 return passenger flights from Newcastle, to New York.
The percentage of customers pre-paying for their journey has risen from 60% in June 2021 to over 77% in June this year.