The boss of the Tyne Tunnel has left his job.

Philip Smith has quit as chief executive of tunnel operator TT2 to “pursue new opportunities”, the Local Democracy Reporting Service has been told. The company said it was “business as usual” following his departure.

Mr Smith was in charge of the tunnel’s controversial shift to its new cashless payment system during his tenure, removing the crossing’s traditional toll booths in favour of the new ‘free flow’ model.

He joined TT2 in 2018, following a previous spell in charge of the Severn River Crossing.

A spokesperson for TT2 said: “We can confirm that Philip Smith, chief Executive at TT2, has left the company to pursue new opportunities.

“We would like to reassure our customers that it is business as usual. Chief operating officer, Shaun Simmons, will continue to oversee the running of the Tyne Tunnels and a replacement will be announced in due course.”

Under Mr Smith’s leadership, the Tyne Tunnel underwent its biggest change since the opening of its second tunnel in 2011.

2021 saw the start of the new ‘Tyne Pass’ scheme, which has meant drivers no longer stop to pay their toll at the barriers on the north side of the river.

Instead, motorists must pay for their journeys via a pre-paid account or do so before midnight the next day via an online service, an automated telephone line, or at PayPoint tills found in some shops.

The switch has come in for major criticism and its launch was branded an “absolute disaster” by some, with complaints about “threatening” enforcement notices and fines being wrongly issued to people living hundreds of miles away.

However, TT2 has insisted that the cashless system has been a success – with more than 97 per cent of drivers now paying their toll on time.

Get more from The Northern Echo with a Premium Plus digital subscription from as little as only £1.50 a week. Click here.

The tunnel operator says the change has also cut pollution levels and reduced journey times.

A spokesperson for Transport North East, the body which oversees the two road tunnels and Tyne Pedestrian Tunnel on behalf of the five local councils that own them, said: “TT2 Limited, the operator of the Tyne Tunnels has notified us of a change in relation to the post of chief executive.

"We continue to work closely with the chief operating officer at TT2 Limited on matters relating to the day-to-day management of the tunnels.”