Motorists in South Tyneside are seeing red over a Tyne Tunnel price hike.
Tunnel tolls will rise by 10p to £1.70 for journeys by car, and HGV drivers will be forced to fork out £3.40 – an extra 20p per trip.
It’s a complete rip-offTris Gallagher
The changes are to be brought into force in April – three months later than expected –- but the delay hasn’t quelled the fury of fed-up tunnel users.
A meeting of the North East Combined Authority (NECA) was told yesterday that the level of tolls is set by a formula which relies on the inflation rate, with prices set to rise annually and the cost for HGVs going up by twice that for cars.
As increases in charges are limited to whole 10p figures, the inflation rate was so low this January that the planned rise was put back.
The proposed increase will now take effect from Sunday, April 3.
The current toll rate for cars was set in January 2013, with the HGV figure set 12 months later
Drivers vented their anger on the Shields Gazette’s website and Facebook page – branding the rise ‘disgusting’ and a ‘complete rip-off’.
Peter Watt said: “Scrap the tolls. If it’s good enough for Scotland, it’s good enough for us.”
David Benham added: “It is cheaper to drive over Tyne Bridge and down north side. Greed.”
Lee Gibson called for an end to toll charges, saying: “Road tax should allow you to drive toll free anywhere.”
Writing on the Gazette’s Facebook page, he said: “It’s a complete rip-off. The money those tunnels generate over a 24-hour period is astronomical.”
Warren Whitehead said; “Absolutely disgusting, it’s already extortionate and that’s with 10% off with a permit. Once the A1 is fully open, I’ll be using that to and from work.”
The Road Haulage Association (RHA) says customers will ultimately be forced to foot the extra bill being faced by firms.
It says firms have been using the Tyne Tunnel more than usual because of the roadworks on the A1 Western Bypass.
RHA spokeswoman Kate Gibbs said: “Any cost has to be passed on and it will inevitably be refelcted in the rate for the job,”
Funding for the tunnels is ring-fenced within NECA’s budget and comes entirely from tolls and existing reserves.
The forecast for 2015/16 shows an increase in toll income, as traffic has been higher than predicted, but the rise in income will largely be eaten up by increased payments to tunnel operator TT2 Ltd, as the amount it is paid is based on the traffic figures.
However, the rise in toll income still means the shortfall in funding is likely to be ‘significantly improved’, which means the amount that will have to be used from the tunnel’s reserves to make up the difference will be reduced to an estimated £289,000.
A spokesman for TT2 limited, which operates the Tyne Tunnel, said; “The proposed toll increase would be the first for more than two years.
“The tolls for the Tyne Tunnels are set by the North East Combined Authority (NECA) and are necessary to pay for the cost of developing the second tunnel, and running both tunnels.
“The addition of the second tunnel has improved the daily commute for tens of thousands of customers every day and brought benefits to businesses across the region.”