South Shields woman battling breast cancer takes on Tyne Tunnel bosses after being hit by fine - despite having pre-paid account
Vicky Copp, 50, was driving through the Tyne Tunnel on her way to Newcastle’s Northern Centre of Cancer Care on May 10 when the barriers failed to recognise her number plate.
In a rush to get to her radiotherapy appointment, Vicky, from Tyne Dock, pressed the ‘pay later’ button but didn’t manage to pay the £1.90 fare by midnight the day after her journey.
She was then hit with a £60 fine just days later and went on to appeal to operator TT2 three times on the grounds that the system had failed to recognise a pre-paid customer.
“I’m sure I also pressed the button for help but I didn’t have time to sit and wait because I had to go to radiotherapy,” Vicky said.
"I was just flabbergasted to [get the fine] under the circumstances and the fact that I had a pre-paid account is my main bugbear.
“I could have just paid the fine but it is the principle of it.”
Vicky, who works at NSA at the Port of Tyne, says that her first two appeals were rejected without any compassion shown with regards to her health circumstances.
She says that her third appeal has seen TT2 revoke the fine, but she still wants to raise awareness of the issue.
Vicky said: "If people have pre-paid accounts, then in the appeals process shouldn’t it be automatic to fault the system? Why should you be fined for it?
"I just want to make sure people know that there is a short window of time to pay when you press this button and there is no leeway whatsoever [when it comes to paying].
"It seems to be quite a big problem and I think it is something that they [TT2] need to look at more closely.”
TT2 disputed Vicky pressed the button asking for help and said it was ‘engaging with the customer to resolve the issue.’
A TT2 spokesman said: “TT2 has a range of options that customers can use to pay for their journey.
"We introduced Pay Later as a flexible option for customers in May 2020, which allows them to pay after their journey by midnight the day after their passage.
“Staff are available via the help button 24 hours a day, every day of the year. If a customer arrives at the toll booth and has an issue, we are there to help.
"This could be for anything from insufficient funds to incorrect details on their registered vehicle, such as an O instead of a 0, which can be rectified by our Tunnel Officer at the toll plaza.
“On this occasion, the customer stopped at the plaza and pressed for a Pay Later ticket, opting not to ask for help.
"While we can’t comment on the details of existing appeals, we are engaging with the customer to resolve the issue."
Vicky’s complaint comes after dozens of Gazette readers with pre-paid accounts shared stories of their own Tyne Tunnel fines and appeals, saying that there was a flaw in the system.
In response, a TT2 spokesman said: "TT2 are committed to acting fairly and responsibly and we are always listening to customer feedback in order to improve our service.
“We recently updated our website giving it a brand-new look, making it easier for customers to find what they need and we will soon be introducing Apple Pay, Google pay and an automatic top-up facility for pre-paid customers, which is something our customers have been asking for.
“This is a stepping stone to our Tyne Pass project, which will see Tyne Tunnels moving to Open Road Tolling at the end of 2021, allowing customers to drive straight through the tunnels without stopping, reducing congestion, decreasing journey times and reducing pollution and emissions.”