‘Tunnel tolls hike will hit business’

DELAYS ... the Tyne Tunnel was closed after an accident involving a motorbike and a car.
DELAYS ... the Tyne Tunnel was closed after an accident involving a motorbike and a car.

A COMPANY boss says he is “unhappy” about a toll hike set to hit HGVs and high-sided vehicles using the increasingly popular Tyne Tunnel from next month.

From January 1, these vehicles will pay an extra 70p to use the tunnel, pushing their toll up to £3.20.

Officials at Tyne and Wear Integrated Transport Authority (TWITA) say the rise was planned for the completion of the £260m New Tyne Project, which provided a second road tunnel, since when motorists are making thousands of extra journeys a day.

But James Southern, managing director of long-established timber company MH Southern & Company, of Church Bank, Jarrow, said the tunnel price rise will have “a financial impact” on his business.

He said: “This will mean a journey to somewhere as close as North Shields and back will cost more than £6.

“We deal with customers on North Tyneside, who will not want to use the tunnel because of this toll increase

“It irks me that our lorries and our customers’ lorries will have to pay so much more, when the tolls on the Humber Bridge have been cut and there are no charges on most bridges in Scotland.

“Transport costs come second only to wages for our type of business.

“While I know they did a great job with the second tunnel, this is bound to have a financial impact on our business.”

Car drivers will not face any increase and will continue to pay £1.60 per journey.

High-sided vans, which account for 0.2 per cent of all tunnel traffic and which were previously classed the same as cars, will be treated as HGVs from January 1.

Paul Fenwick, project director for TWITA, said: “This increase in tolls was planned in 2007 as part of the financing of the New Tyne Crossing, which has made such a positive difference to motorists and businesses.

“Since both tunnels became operational in November 2011, journey times have reduced significantly and around 14,000 additional journeys are made through them every day.”

TWITA says the latest price hike is the final increase planned, following the launch of the second tunnel.

From 2015, any toll increase will be linked to inflation, unless major works are required, in which case tolls could rise again.

Twitter: @terrykelly16