Tyne Tunnel barriers are set to vanish in 2021 - this is what will replace them

Toll booths and barriers at the Tyne Tunnel should be gone in just over a year’s time – with plans approved for a radical overhaul of the crossing.

Thursday, 10th September 2020, 5:38 pm
Updated Thursday, 10th September 2020, 5:39 pm
Tyne Tunnel barriers are set to be replaced with Automated Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras

Transport bosses are pushing ahead with a revolutionary project to put an end to drivers reaching out of car windows with a handful of coins to access the tunnels.

A new system, which it is hoped can be up and running between October and December 2021, would be completely barrier-free and work using Automated Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras only.

There were fears earlier this summer that the devastating impact of Covid-19 on the tunnels’ income due to reduced traffic levels could endanger the scheme, which operator TT2 says will ultimately cost £80 million and create 80 new jobs based in Howdon.

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However, Tyne and Wear councillors agreed on Thursday, September 10, to approve the implementation of the project.

Members on the Tyne and Wear sub-committee of the North East Joint Transport Committee were also told that the removal of the toll barriers could create space for a new A19 services station to be built in their place.

Fiona Bootle, Tyne Tunnels manager for Transport North East, said that reducing the number of traffic lanes on the north side of the crossing from eight to two would free up land for development.

She also confirmed that motorists will have to pay their tolls by midnight on the day after their journey once the new system comes into force – and will be able to do so via a pre-paid account, via a website or app, over the phone, or in-person at certain shops that offer services like Payzone.

Anyone who fails to pay by midnight the next day will be contacted by post and faces enforcement action.

Ms Bootle added: “The fact that the traffic is going to be free flowing and not having to stop really does make a difference to carbon emissions. Especially from HGVs and larger vehicles which when stopping and pulling away from the barriers, as it is slightly uphill, emit a lot of CO2 which will hopefully be significantly reduced by the free flow system.

“There should not be any need for vehicles to stop at all. They should be able to simply continue in the lane they are in, they won’t have to separate out into six lanes to go the barriers, they will just continue straight through and then the payment for the journey will be made afterwards.”

She also told councillors that signage around the tunnels and other communication will have to be clear enough to make sure drivers, particularly those who are new to the area, know that it is a toll road once the barriers are removed.

Coun Gladys Hobson, the sub-committee’s chair, said: “This heralds a major change to the way the tunnels operate bringing huge benefits for motorists, businesses and the environment as we look forward to quicker journey times and fewer idling engines on the approach routes.”

“The Pay Later scheme has been very successful over the last few months, allowing more than 135,000 drivers to pay online after their journey and we look forward to the full scheme making it even more convenient for drivers to the use the tunnels.”

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