A DAMNING petition calling on Tyne Tunnel bosses to make changes after thousands of drivers were given £60 fines under its new system has had a massive response - with new signatures being added every two minutes.

In the space of just 24 hours, more than 4,000 people have signed Gary Spedding's petition calling for reform including longer to pay, increased signage and an independent appeals process.

It comes as The Northern Echo earlier this week reported there were major concerns over the length of time given to pay the £1.90 toll before drivers are hit by a £60 fine and the impact on the region's reputation.

Read more: Tyne Tunnel suffers huge backlash over 'absurd' system after thousands get £60 fine

So far, Mr Spedding's petition has seen more than 6,200 signatures since it was set up and a torrent of support in favour of his five-point plan on how bosses can resolve the problems facing thousands.

The Northern Echo:

The tunnels went cashless in November, meaning toll booths were removed and drivers paying online instead Picture: GOOGLE

Speaking to The Northern Echo, Mr Spedding said that he had been "overwhelmed" with the response and said the sheer amount of support was proof that action was urgently needed.

He said: "The response from the general public has been overwhelming, it has been positive, it’s quite clear that the aims of the petition are supported and called for in terms of people who are signing the petition.

“My straightforward question is 'are any of the requests unreasonable or are any of them not possible,' because in reality, a request of additional time to pay and an independent appeals process is straight forward."

Read more: Warning to drivers as CCTV installed on busy bus lane near Durham City

In his petition, Mr Spedding says that since the tunnels went cashless and barriers were removed, the number of fines has "skyrocketed" and the payment system has seen a "number of errors."

The Northern Echo:

It says: "The number of errors with the new system, coupled with the massive increase in the number of people receiving fines, is simply unacceptable.

"Countless individuals have come forward to relay the severe distress and financial hardship caused by the penalty fines being issued by TT2 Limited."

Setting out a solution to help resolve the issue, he sets out a five-point plan calling on the following actions:

1. Cancel all unpaid toll charges issued in the last 6 months prior to 1st January 2022.

2. Increase the time period for which to 'pay later' from 48 hours to 5 working days.

3. Engage in a concerted advertising campaign to ensure people are fully aware of how the Tyne Tunnel now works and encourage frequent travellers to sign up for a pre-paid account.

4. Scrap the current penalty charge system and replace with the following more ethical structure: For those who miss their deadline to pay should receive an initial fine of no more than £20, which should be reduced to £5.00 if paid within 14 days of the date the fine was generated. These amounts are more ethical and affordable to the average user of the Tyne Tunnel - many of whom come from working class backgrounds or may be suffering from hardship due to the current economic climate. If paying a penalty charge then the original 'toll fare' should be taken out of the fine paid so that people are not being charged extra. If a person fails to pay the initial £20 fine within 28 days, it should rise to no more than £40 and only after a period of 42 days should this be passed to a debt collection agency where "additional administrative charges" of no more than a further £25 should be added.

5. Review the appeals process and produce clear guidance that is publicly available on what the policies of TT2 Limited are in relation to travel through the tunnel, what the toll prices are, and the penalty charge procedures. Ensuring that each individual case is considered carefully and with sensitivity.

'That's what a fair payment system looks like'

On the petition, hundreds have left their messages of support with many revealing their own problems with the tunnel after the new system came in.

One signatory said: "Dartford Crossing has a much fairer (and better) payment system.

"There is no balance to top up, merely add payment cards. If you forget to update your card, you will be sent a reminder letter and given the opportunity to fix it before you receive a fine.

"If you forget to register your car, you are also sent a letter to fix it, before you receive a fine. That's what a fair payment system looks like."

Another petition 

Mr Spedding's petition is not the only one that has been gaining traction in recent days against the tunnels and the timeframe to pay the £1.90 tolls.

Campaigner Mark Birkett slammed the time given to pay as "ridiculously unfair" and hailed the fining of drivers through an "absurd" system as "sharp practice."

In a petition set up by Mr Birkett, he claimed the payment window is causing drivers who have full intentions to pay "unnecessary distress" and urged the Government to intervene.

'Enormous reputational damage'

In it, he says: "Along with tens and tens of thousands of other perfectly law-abiding users of the Tyne Tunnel, I recently received notice of a fine for 'late' payment of the due toll fee. Like them, I was perfectly willing to pay the due fee, yet was unable to do so within their absurdly short 'payment window'.

"I want government and Parliament to recognise that there are very serious 'sharp practices' being implemented by the Tyne Tunnel operator (TT2 Ltd).

"These practices are causing a great deal of totally unnecessary distress and collossal expense to tens of thousands of people, not to mention enormous reputational damage to the North East as far as tourism is concerned."

This petition has had more than 1,600 signatures in just several days.

What Tyne Tunnel bosses have said

Responding to the fresh concerns and petitions this week, TT2 defended the current system.

A spokesman 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.

"While we recognise there was some inevitable confusion at the outset we are working with customers to help them through this transition.

“The majority of motorists have adapted well to the new system, which is already proving to be a faster, smoother way to travel through the Tyne Tunnels.

"More than 94 percent of customers made compliant journeys within the first month, and we expect this to continue rising as more people get used to the new system.

“Income raised via fines, or UTCNs, represented just 20 percent of toll revenues in the month. The level of charges is defined in the Byelaws and was not set by TT2.  

"For every customer that doesn’t pay their toll, there are costs to recover that toll. The charge covers all additional costs associated with toll recovery and ensures that the customers who do pay their toll are not disadvantaged.

“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 new 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.

“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.

“In terms of the payment terms, drivers have until midnight the day after their journey to pay for their trip, which is the same as all open road tolling systems in the UK.

"This timeframe is intended to encourage people to pay quickly after their journey before they forget. Research has shown that a longer timeframe to pay increases that risk that people forget as payment is a lower priority.

“With regards to signage – we have installed numerous temporary signs while roadworks are underway at both the north and south bound entrances.

"They make clear that a toll is payable, how much it will be, when it needs to be paid by, how to make payment (cash, phone or online) and the consequences if payment is not made.

"We point all customers to our website where we have a whole section on ‘using the tunnels’ and encourage them to take up the free pre-paid account which entitles them to ten percent off every journey no matter how infrequently used.”


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