Warning to Tyne Tunnel toll dodgers using 'infrared tape' registration plate scam to trick cameras

Transport bosses have issued a warning to drivers attempting to bypass the new ‘barrierless’ tolling system at the Tyne Tunnels.
The new 'Tyne Pass' scheme is now in operation at the Tyne Tunnel.The new 'Tyne Pass' scheme is now in operation at the Tyne Tunnel.
The new 'Tyne Pass' scheme is now in operation at the Tyne Tunnel.

Back in 2019, plans were approved to replace physical tolling booths with a barrier-free system at the key route as part of a bid to cut queues, journey times and emissions.

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Only weeks after the changes went live in early November 2021, Tyne Tunnel bosses have reported drivers attempting to get around the new system.

This includes ‘infrared tape’ being placed on registration plates in an attempt to stop high-tech cameras from identifying vehicles.

“There are people who try to cover up part of their licence plate,”said Fiona Bootle, Tyne Tunnels Manager.

“People have been using infrared tape over the two end letters at each end so the camera picks it up and this tape only picks up the middle letters.

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“There are all sorts of things that people try to do but these high-tech cameras pick up the licence plate four times as you go through, twice at the back of your car and twice at the front.

“This all goes into a computer system and for that car, one [image] will be clear, the four match up and they try and get a clarity on it.

“If it’s not clear, then it goes through a human check as well so that it’s the right registration.

“With that registration number, it’s the registered keeper who will be written to and that’s through the DVLA records.”

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Ms Bootle was speaking at a meeting of the Hebburn Community Area Forum (CAF) on November 29 during a general update on the Tyne Pass scheme.

The comments about infrared tape came in response to a question from councillor Wilf Flynn, chair of the CAF, about the technology behind the new tolling system and how it was working.

Councillors heard that registration details are collected while vehicles travel through the tunnels, which can be linked to a specific pre-paid account.

People who don’t want to use the pre-paid scheme can pay after, or before, their journey via the Tyne Tunnels website, on the mobile app, or by using the telephone line.

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There is also still be the ability to pay by cash by using a PayPoint service in certain retailers.

Anyone travelling through the tunnels will have until midnight the day after their journey to ensure they have made a payment, otherwise enforcement action will be taken.

While blue badge holders can still use the tunnel for free – but must register their vehicle online to benefit from the exemption.

Tyne Tunnel officers said the toll does not make profit and pays off debt from the building of the second tunnel.

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Despite drivers attempting to use infrared tape to get around paying under the new barrierless system, bosses stressed this method is ineffective.

Tyne Tunnels manager, Ms Bootle, said: “This infrared tape you can’t really see it, it’s only the cameras.

“What has happened anyway is that it comes up as a low confidence reading on the systems and then that moves into a human check and the human check can see the right number plate.

“The infrared tape hasn’t been working for people but there’s an awful lot of people who must have bought it on eBay or read about it on the internet that are trying this infrared tape.”

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He added: “The message is it doesn’t work. We still see their number plate and they still have to pay like everyone else.”

Those who fail to pay the Tyne Tunnel toll on time will receive a £30 unpaid toll charge notice if paid within 14 days, or £60 if paid within 28 days.

All unpaid charge notices are in addition to the original toll fee.

To support the new system, a phone helpline and appeals service has also been set up to support users of the route.

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To sign up for a pre-paid account for the Tyne Tunnels, visit: https://account.tt2.co.uk/sign-up

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