AFTER nearly a decade of tormenting motorists in their thousands, the days of a city’s rising bollard could be numbered.

Durham County Council chiefs want to replace the bollard, which polices Durham’s city centre toll charge, with Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras.

Since its introduction – five months ahead of London’s congestion charge in October 2002 – countless drivers have tried to jump the £2 fee, with many suffering the unwelcome thud of the bollard rising up beneath their vehicle.

But council bosses now want the toll administered electronically.

However, it is not all good news for motorists – the charge is set to rise by 150 per cent, from £2 to £5.

The scheme, which is in the consultation stage, comes as Durham is undergoing a £5.5m Heart of the City refurbishment project.

Councillor Neil Foster, the council’s cabinet member for regeneration and economic development, said: “We are committed to preserving and improving the unique beauty and atmosphere of Durham City as a place to live, work and visit.

“A key aspect of this is making sure the centre is safe and attractive for everyone.

“As such, we are asking local residents and businesses to work with us to find the best way forward to minimise traffic during the day, which may well include getting rid of the current bollard system and replacing it with a camera recognition system, used successfully in many other places.”

John Charters, from the City of Durham Trust conservation group, said: “The congestion charge should be maintained because we’ve got to get a grip on the car in Durham City, but the bollard doesn’t seem to be working very well – there are always motorists getting stuck on it. An alternative would be better – we’ve got the technology, so why not use it?”

Fred Henderson, whose breakdown company has pulled many vehicles from the bollard over the years, said: “I think it’s a wonderful and long overdue initiative.

“It should have been put into place from the beginning.

“The technology has been available since the bollard was put in.

“We won’t miss the aggravation of seeing all the people distressed with their holidays ruined."