Tyne Tunnel pre-pay warning: South Shields couple's anger after being hit with fines - despite having pre-paid account

Drivers have been warned about falling foul of the new Tyne Tunnel pre-pay system after a couple were hit with hundreds of pounds in fines – despite having already paid.

Henry and Lesley Pearce, both 54, were shocked to get two separate fines from tunnel operator TT2 after using its new pre-paid barriers, despite having money in their account.

The pair used the new barrier-free lane when driving separately on two occasions, thinking their pre-paid account meant they could drive straight through.

But in the days that followed, they received two £60 fines from TT2 for failing to stop at the plaza, reduced to £31.80 if paid within 14 days.

Henry and Lesley Pearce, pictured with the fines they received, hope their story will act as a warning to others.

They decided to appeal against the fines, received in January, on the grounds they did not know they had to stop.

But their appeals were rejected – and fines later increased to £176 each for not paying.

"There has been plenty of publicity about the removal of the barriers and when one sees – for the first time – that there are no barriers for the pre-paid lanes, it is natural to think this is the start of just being able to drive right through,” said Henry, a business analyst.

“The traffic lights are hidden right at the front and it is only when getting right up to where the barrier would be that you can see the light,”

The Tyne Tunnel barriers

"As I drove through I realised there was a red light, but by then it was too late.”

TT2 said customers using the pre-paid lanes must stop at the plaza, stressing ‘all pre-paid customers were notified how the barrierless lanes operate’ – with the information also available online.

But Lesley, a primary school teacher, and husband Henry, feel the fines were unfair.

"I feel very sore that having been a pre-paid customer for many years that I have been caught out and been charged a fine for this and that TT2 are not willing to waive this,” Henry added.

"It begs the question – why have they moved the barrier if you still have to come to a complete stop to allow the system to register your number plate?

"It seems as if it is designed to catch people out.”

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A TT2 spokesman said: “The barrierless lanes were introduced in December 2020 as part of Tyne Tunnels transition to open road tolling later this year.

"These are premium lanes which provide pre-paid customers with the fastest transaction through the tolls.

"It is important to note though that there is a requirement for customers to stop at the plaza; the lanes are clearly signposted and a traffic light system familiar to all road users in place where a red light means do not proceed until it turns green.

"Whilst colleagues are working on the plazas providing a valuable service to customers, allowing vehicles to travel through the plaza at speed would be unsafe to do so.

"There has been great demand from customers to increase the number of pre-paid lanes and TT2 are pleased to say these lanes have proven to be extremely popular with prepaid customers.

“All pre-paid customers were notified how the barrierless lanes operate, information was shared on how they operated via email, TT2 website, mobile app and social media channels.

"The cameras that operate the Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) system require vehicles to stop so that the pre-paid account can be identified and the toll deducted from the credit on their account.

"The overhead cameras are a stand-alone system designed to identify vehicles that fail to stop as per the signage and instructions at the plaza.

“On the occasions when these customers have travelled, they failed to follow the instructions and signage, resulting in TT2 recovering costs incurred due to the customers travelling through a red light.”

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