New move in Tyne Tunnel toll booth project
A major transformation of the Tyne Tunnel - which would make toll barriers a thing of the past - could take a significant step forward tomorrow.
Tunnel operator TT2 revealed last year that it wants to cut congestion at the busy crossing by removing toll booths and replacing them with new number plate recognition cameras.
They have since said that the project would represent an £80m investment in the vital commuter route, which connects Jarrow and North Shields, and could be completed by 2021.
Tomorrow, council transport bosses from either side of the Tyne will be asked for their approval to press ahead with the early stages of what is being dubbed the 'Tyne Pass Project'.
While Advanced Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras have already been installed at the tunnel crossing to allow drivers with pre-paid permits to pass straight through the barriers, TT2 wants to make further upgrades that would see the barriers removed completely.
Once the proposed new system is operational, any drivers without a permit displayed will have their number plate recognised by cameras and be able to pay later online, over the phone, or in person at some shops.
According to North East Joint Transport Committee (JTC) documents, the changes will "lead to smoother traffic flow, reduced congestion and reduced air pollution (through the reduction of queuing traffic) in the area".
TT2 chief executive Phil Smith told the JTC's Tyne and Wear sub-committee in February that the scheme will create 80 new jobs and also promised no redundancies as a result of losing the existing toll plaza operation.
When the committee meets in Gatesheady, councillors will be asked to give a mandate for combined authority officials to "commence discussion" with TT2 about the plans and develop a draft agreement - though councillors will also have to formally approve the scheme when more details are finalised later this year.
Higher tolls to use the tunnel are expected to come into force later this month.
The charges will increase by 10p from £1.70 to £1.80 for cars and light goods vehicles and by 20p, from £3.40 to £3.60, for HGVs.