The local authority made a historic change and committed to going cashless.
The new ‘open road tolling’ system means the removal of barriers and traffic lights and the installation of cameras to automatically register journeys instead.
Now vehicles will drive straight through the tunnels instead of stopping on their north side to pay at the toll booths.
Motorists can now pay the fee using a prepaid account with the tunnel operator TT2, or settle the fee before midnight the night after their journey using an online pay later service, an automated phone line or at a PayPal point.
There is now no way of paying to cross the tunnel with cash or contactless cards, with bosses promising that because of this customers will experience faster journeys with far less queueing. Bosses also claim the change will save up to 1,944 hours a week in queueing time, as well as a reduction in C02 emissions by up to 90% with traffic no longer waiting at a standstill.
The change to the toll payment system is the biggest switch up drivers will have seen since the opening of the second tunnel in 2011.
The local authorities have already been faced with many complaints since the ‘pay later’ ticket option that was introduced last year, at one point nearly one in five drivers received heavy fines when they were unable to pay their toll by midnight the following day. The penalty notice can rise up to £100 as well as the £1.90.
Phil Smith, chief executive of TT2 commented ‘We are incredibly excited to see open-road-tolling go live – it’s a historic moment and a key move into modernising the tunnels.
“For the millions of customers who use the tunnel each year, gone are the days of scrambling around for change and waiting in queues. This will greatly improve their experience and make it easier and more convenient for them to pay. And, in the case of those who pre-pay, this makes their journeys cheaper too.
“We have undertaken a gradual, phased approach to changing the tunnels over to open-road-tolling to give drivers time to adjust and understand the changes to the way the tunnels will work from now on.”
He added that around 70% of tunnel users already used a pre-paid account and only 20% currently used cash.
Martin Gannon, the leader of Gateshead Council, who also chairs the North East Joint Transport Committee, added that the scheme will “deliver major environmental benefits for our region”.
“The investment in a more modern operation will provide major journey time savings, alongside the significant environmental benefits of the scheme. This is a positive step towards the decarbonisation of the transport network and achieving our vision of moving to a green, health, dynamic and thriving North East as outlined in the North East Transport Plan.”
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