DRIVERS have accused Tyne Tunnel bosses of "making a fortune" after being stung with hefty fines under the new barrierless system.

Furious drivers have slammed the current time given to pay the £1.90 toll after being hit with £60 fines as the tunnels went cashless and barriers were removed last month.

Hitting out, drivers warned those unfamiliar with the area were being caught out in their droves and that reminders or warning letters should be sent to first-time offenders.

Read more: Inside the Newton Aycliffe Hitachi factory that will build new super fast HS2 trains

TT2, which runs the tunnels on behalf of the North East Combined Authority, has responded, saying customers now had "longer" than ever to pay their toll.

The Northern Echo: The barriers are being removed Picture: GOOGLEThe barriers are being removed Picture: GOOGLE

Previously, drivers using the tunnel had to stop and either pay their toll in coins, a pre-paid account or by obtaining a 'Pay Later' slip, paid by midnight the next day.

Now, drivers do not stop and are required to pay via a pre-paid account, a PayPoint retailer, telephone or by inputting their details on the website, within the same timeframe.

Darlington driver gets caught out 

But one Darlington driver described his nightmare after receiving £60 worth in fines for a return trip just weeks after the barrierless system came in.

Read more: How to pay for the Tyne Tunnel from November - including cash

The driver, who asked not to be named, said he had been caught out by the deadline of midnight the following day, branding two lots of £30 fines for £3.80 tolls "ridiculous."

He told The Northern Echo: "We knew there was a new system, but weren't aware of how it worked, we assumed that it would be a barrier where you flashed your card.

"There were signs saying that you had to pay the toll by midnight the following day, which we said we will sort that later, but it completely slipped our minds."

The Northern Echo: Customers are now able to drive straight through Picture: NORTHERN ECHOCustomers are now able to drive straight through Picture: NORTHERN ECHO

Admitting he had made an error, he said it had become incredibly easy to forget making payment as soon as possible now that drivers are no longer given a 'Pay Later' slip.

Warning that hundreds could be getting caught out, he said that reminders or warning letters should be sent to drivers in the first instance to prevent more fines being issued. 

Read more: Drivers try to fool Tyne Tunnel cameras to avoid £1.90 charge

He said: "It was our fault but we just forgot, they must be making a fortune out of this. It just seems to be a licence to print money.

"Why can't they just send out a reminder, then you get a fair amount of time to pay, that makes more sense to me."

The Northern Echo:

'A cash cow'

County Durham man Craig Lazenby received a £60 fine - reduced to £30 if paid within 14 days - after missing the deadline for a single trip on November 10.

Mr Lazenby, who works across the region as a sales manager for Ringtons Tea, said he did not routinely use the tunnels and he suggested the system was allowing drivers to miss payments. 

He said: "Never do I use the tunnel other than (when) I had to go to South Shields to see a potential new customer.

"By the time you get on with your everyday tasks meetings, it slips your mind. I think everybody should get a warning, this is (another) cash cow."

'An extortionate fee'

Since coming into force, scores of drivers have been taking to social media to hit back at the new system with many claiming the timeframe to pay is just not long enough.

One person said: "Absolutely fuming, first time we used the Tyne Tunnel for work and paid the fee, albeit a day late and ended up with a £63.80 penalty.

"Rather expensive day at work, we probably could have had a limo to work for that price, so be warned – I think it's an extortionate fee."

Another, who had just missed the deadline to pay on Sunday night, said: "I've just tried to pay for a journey I did on Saturday.

"I forgot to pay when I got in, tried to pay and was told when I rang up, I now have a £30 fine.

"I never use the tunnel and to give people just 24 hours to pay is an absolute con."

What Tyne Tunnel bosses have said

In response, TT2 said it was not practical to issue reminders or warnings to the thousands of drivers using the tunnels as it said there is an appeals process for those who believe their charge has been issued unfairly.

A spokesperson said: "Open road tolling has been a feature brought to many toll roads across the UK and is a modern, environmentally friendly way of using a tolling system.

"Customers now have longer than they have ever had to pay their toll, where previously it could only be paid at the point of crossing, customers can pre-pay up to a year in advance or, like other toll roads in the UK such as Mersey Gateway and Dartford Crossing, pay by midnight the day after their journey.

"TT2 have made it as easy as possible to pay, you just need your vehicle registration number, and you can pay online, by phone, at any UK PayPoint retailer or with a Pre-Paid account. There are more ways to pay than ever before. We have also introduced auto-top up where the journey is automatically deducted from a customer’s account and the account always stays topped up.

"There is advanced signage on both approach to and exit of the tunnels. TT2 also have ongoing media campaigns across print, TV, social media, web and outdoor. We regularly post reminders to pay and we have been in touch with thousands of businesses including tourist boards informing them of the changes.

"Contacting the 50,000 plus customers who use the tunnels daily simply is not practical. All customers have the right to appeal their Unpaid Toll Charge Notice if they think it has been issued unfairly.”

To sign up to a pre-paid account, which gives you 10 percent off each journey, click here.


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