South Shields MP demands change in the law over Tyne Tunnel fines as petition nears 8,000 signatures

An MP is calling for a change in the law around fines as a petition demanding changes to the controversial Tyne Tunnel pre-pay system nears its 8,000-signature target.

Friday, 7th January 2022, 2:50 pm

Tyne Tunnel chiefs launched the new barrier-free system in November 2021, and have hailed the improved traffic flow and reduction in carbon emissions as a success for the system.

But figures released over Christmas by tunnel operator TT2 showed drivers were hit with almost £2,000 in fines every day in the first month of the new cashless system.

Fines totalling £507,000 were issued in November 2021, making ‘Unpaid Toll Charge Notices’ (UTCNs) worth 20% of the £2.8million of the tunnels’ revenue over the month.

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The Tyne Tunnel.

And South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck MP, who has been campaigning on behalf of motorists, and raised the issue in Parliament in a session with Leader of the House, Jacob Rees-Mogg.

She said: “My constituents and many others have been incorrectly subjected to large fines, have incurred debt and are being chased by bailiffs for alleged non-payment of the toll at our Tyne tunnel since it changed to an open-road system.

“Last year I wrote to the Secretary of State for Transport and was advised that these problems had nothing at all to do with the Government, yet some of these issues relate to byelaws that can only be changed by statutory instruments.

South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck.

"Will the Leader of the House please explain if, as the Secretary of State indicated, the Government are no longer responsible for changing this legislation, who is?”

The Leader of the House said he had ‘enormous sympathy on the issue’, adding: “There is nothing more vexatious for our constituents than being fined by officious bodies for doing things that are perfectly normal to do, whether they are private road or private parking companies, who seem to specialise in this, or people chasing for tolls."

He said Ms Lewell-Buck was ‘quite right to stand up on behalf of her constituents’ and asked for her to set out the issues in writing so he could examine which byelaws need changing and take it up with the relevant Government department.

The changes introduced in late 2021 mean instead of stopping to pay, drivers now either pre-pay, or must pay by midnight on the day after their journey, either online of or by cash or card at a PayPoint outlet.

Leader of the House of Commons, Jacob Rees-Mogg. (Photo by Hannah McKay - WPA Pool / Getty Images)

Tunnel bosses say some 94% of customers made ‘compliant journeys’ within the first month.

Protestors also want a ‘concerted advertising campaign to ensure people are fully aware of how the Tyne Tunnel now works and encourage frequent travellers to sign up for a pre-paid account’.

The petition also suggests that the current fines system be scrapped and replaced with a system where those who do not pay their toll are issued with a £20 fine, lowered to £5 if paid within 14 days.

Currently, fines are issued at £60, lowered to £30 if paid within 14 days and if left unpaid can rise to more than £160, and can be handed to a debt recovery company.

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