North East travel bosses approve toll rise for Tyne Tunnel - but also vote to delay hike until May to protect family finances at cost of £1.5 million
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North East travel chiefs voted today (Tuesday, November 15) to increase the price of the toll for using the busy crossing, but have deferred the hike from next February until May because of the major financial pressures already set to hit North East households this winter.
It means toll for car drivers will rise from £1.90 to £2.20, while HGV driver will see prices rise from £3.90 to £4.40.
Members of the North East Joint Transport Committee’s Tyne and Wear sub-committee were told the toll needed to increase at a higher rate than usual because of the escalating inflation – and to repay debts from construction of the second tunnel.
Philip Smith, chief executive of Tyne Tunnel operator TT2, said electricity bills for the crossing were expected to rise by an “astonishing” £1 million.
Committee chairman Carl Johnson, deputy mayor of North Tyneside, said decision-makers would not be upping the toll “if we were not contractually and legally bound to”.
He added: “We fully understand that everyone and every organisation is going through massive cost increases at the moment. The deferment [to May] is the best we can do as a committee to at least try and alleviate the pressure.”
Motorists using a pre-paid account will still get a 10% discount, making the cost £1.98 for cars and £3.96 for HGVs.
Keeping the toll at an “artificially lower level” until May will cost £1.5 million from cash reserves, but bosses claim extending this further would deplete savings to an “unacceptable level”.
Gateshead councillor John McElroy said: “None of us like having any sort of price increase, particularly to public services.
"But, in view of the fact that costs are going up, we have to fulfil our obligations and see this increase go through.
The decision on the toll increase was delayed after too few councillors turned up to vote on the critical issue.
Tyne Tunnel bosses last week marked 12 months since the removal of the crossing’s old toll booths and the start of a new, cashless payment system that requires motorists to pay either online, with a pre-paid account, over the phone, or in shops with PayPoint counters.