Tyne Tunnel bosses cancel non-payment fine for Kent gran who claims she has ‘never been north of the Thames’
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The crossing has been the subject of a raft of complaints following its switch to a cashless system.
But the latest motorist to be stung by the toll payment scheme claims she has never even seen the Tyne Tunnel and had to Google it after receiving an Unpaid Toll Charge Notice (UTCN).
Julie Barnett, from Kent, considers herself a total stranger to the North East – although she has “heard of Ant and Dec” – but thinks she was sent the payment demand in December after the crossing’s automatic cameras misread a registration plate.
The 62-year-old, who lives on the Isle of Sheppey, wrote immediately to tunnel operator TT2 to highlight the apparent error and received a letter of apology in reply.
But she then received a final payment reminder notice in January and has now been sent an enforcement notice from debt collectors telling her that she owes £176.90.
Now that toll plazas have been removed from the north side of the tunnel, car drivers must pay the £1.90 crossing fee by midnight the next day – either online, with a pre-paid account, over the phone or in shops with PayPoint counters.
Those who skip the charge face a £60 penalty, rising to £100, plus the original toll charge and extra administrative costs, if not settled within 28 days.
After Mrs Barnett got in touch with the Local Democracy Reporting Service, TT2 has said it will cancel her fine and blamed the problem on there being two UTCNs associated with her car, rather than just the one that she had successfully appealed in December.
The retiree, who has two children and one grandson and who claims she has “never been north of the Thames”, said the experience had been “very stressful” and complained that TT2 “make it easy to pay, but not easy to contact them”.
She added: “I wrote to them in December to say this was not my car – the one in the picture has a different shape number plate to mine and if you look closely you can see it is a different registration.
“They apologised to me, but then I got a final payment reminder notice in January. I wrote to TT2 again but did not get a response this time.
“I thought it had been dealt with and they had forgotten about me, but then the next thing you know I am getting an enforcement notice telling me that I owe a lot of money – £176.90.”
A TT2 spokesperson said that, after investigating, bosses found two UTCNs linked to her car – one that was cancelled in December and another that had been escalated to enforcement levels.
They added: “Since she has now brought this to our attention, we are happy to confirm that we have cancelled the second UTCN.
“TT2 will always try to work with our customers to resolve any issues like this.”
Almost 13,000 people have backed a petition slamming “simply unacceptable” errors with the new payment system and a surge in motorists being hit with heavy fines.
Latest figures show that just 4.71% of drivers using the tunnel are fined for non-payment of tolls – a figure which still amounts to about 55,000 penalties issued every month.