Tyne Tunnel operators have sent a strongly-worded message to users attempting to dodge fines after taking successful court action against two drivers.
Two motorists who made dozens of journeys through the popular Tyneside tunnel without paying were prosecuted at Newcastle Magistrates Court last month. One had made 170 journeys without paying and was fined £150 and another, who didn't appear in court when charged, had made 94 trips and was fined £220 - on top of a victim surcharge and prosecution costs.
TT2 is using the cases as an example to warn off the "small proportion" of drivers who try to avoid paying the toll.
Philip Smith, CEO of TT2, said: “Serial toll evaders are a small proportion of motorists using the Tyne Tunnels. However, this small proportion who repeatedly refuse to pay the toll are a cost to other motorists and ultimately the public purse.
“They should be in no doubt that we will prosecute serial toll evaders, so we are able to continue providing and improving the service for the majority of tunnel users who pay for their journeys.”
The Tyne Tunnel charges a toll to cover costs for operation and maintenance as it is a private road that does not benefit from centrally funded maintenance.
The tunnel moved to a cashless system last year in a controversial switch that has boosted efficiency and lowered CO2 emissions but has caused widespread confusion for users.
Statistics show that now almost 97% of drivers pay their toll without issue and the number of Unpaid Toll Charge Notices (UTCNs) being issued as a percentage of journeys made in the month is down from 5.39% in November 2021 (the month of the cashless switch) to 3.26% in May 2022.
Smith added: “The recent appraisal report conducted by Transport North East confirmed we have delivered faster, smoother journeys, less congestion, reduced emissions and better local air quality and they were the main reasons behind the decision to launch open-road-tolling.
“The increased levels of traffic through the tunnels since the move to open-road-tolling shows that most of our customers recognise we are delivering an improved travel experience. For any motorists that are still struggling to adjust to the changes, we continue to help where we can with ongoing campaigns, transitional rules and a customer service team that is available seven days a week. For the small group who simply resent paying, we will be tough on that group of offenders.”
When a UTCN is issued the motorist has 14 days to pay the £30 + the toll; it then becomes £60 + the toll when it reaches 15-28 days when you are also sent a reminder to pay.
If no payment is made by 28 days, the fine rises to £100 + the toll and is then sent to a third-party debt collector. You can then appeal, and the case is frozen until you receive a response.