A DAMNING petition calling on Tyne Tunnel bosses to make changes after thousands of drivers were fined £ 60 under its new system had a massive response – with new signatures added every two minutes .
In just 24 hours, more than 4,000 people signed Gary Spedding’s petition calling for reform, including longer payment times, increased signage and an independent appeal process.
It comes as The Northern Echo reported earlier this week that there were major concerns over the time limit to pay the £ 1.90 toll before drivers were fined £ 60 and l impact on the reputation of the region.
Read more: Tyne Tunnel suffers huge backlash over ‘absurd’ scheme after thousands fined £ 60
So far, Mr Spedding’s petition has garnered over 6,200 signatures since its inception and a torrent of support for his five-point plan on how bosses can solve the problems facing thousands of people. people.
The tunnels became cashless in November, meaning toll plazas were removed and drivers paid online instead Image: GOOGLE
Speaking to The Northern Echo, Mr Spedding said he had been “overwhelmed” by the response and said the overwhelming support was proof that action was urgently needed.
He said: “The response from the general public has been overwhelming, it has been positive, it is quite clear that the goals of the petition are supported and demanded in terms of who signs the petition.
“My straightforward question is ‘is any of the requests unreasonable or is any of them impossible,’ because in reality, a request for additional payment time and an independent appeal process is straightforward. ”
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In his petition, Mr Spedding says that since the tunnels became cashless and the barriers were removed, the number of fines has “skyrocketed” and the payment system has experienced a “number of errors” .
He says: “The number of errors with the new system, coupled with the massive increase in the number of people being fined, is simply unacceptable.
“Countless people have come forward to relay the serious distress and financial hardship caused by the fines imposed by TT2 Limited.”
Outlining a solution to help solve the problem, it establishes a five-point plan that calls for the following actions:
1. Cancel all unpaid toll charges issued in the last 6 months before January 1, 2022.
2. Increase the “pay later” timeframe from 48 hours to 5 business days.
3. Engage in a concerted advertising campaign to ensure that people are fully aware of the current operation of the Tyne Tunnel and to encourage frequent travelers to sign up for a prepaid account.
4. Eliminate the current system of penalties and replace it with the following more ethical structure: for those who miss their payment deadline, they should receive an initial fine of no more than £ 20, which should be reduced to £ 5 if they are paid within 14 days of the date the fine was generated. These amounts are more ethical and affordable for the average user of the Tyne Tunnel – many of whom are from the working class or may suffer hardship due to the current economic climate. If you pay a penalty, the original “toll rate” should be deducted from the fine paid so that people are not charged extra. If a person does not pay the initial £ 20 fine within 28 days, it should not exceed £ 40 and only after a period of 42 days should it be transferred to an agency debt collection where an ‘additional administrative charge’ of no more than an additional £ 25 should be added.
5. Review the appeal process and produce clear and publicly accessible guidelines on TT2 Limited’s policies regarding tunnel travel, toll rates and penalty procedures. Ensure that each individual case is examined with care and sensitivity.
“This is what a fair payment system looks like”
On the petition, hundreds of people left their messages of support, many revealing their own issues with the tunnel after the new system arrived.
One signatory said: “Dartford Crossing has a much fairer (and better) payment system.
“There is no balance to top up, just add charge cards. If you forget to update your card, you will receive a reminder letter and have the option to repair it before you get a fine.
“If you forget to register your car, you also get a letter to fix it, before you get a fine. This is what a fair payment system looks like.”
Mr Spedding’s petition is not the only one that has gained ground in recent days against the tunnels and the delay in paying tolls of £ 1.90.
Activist Mark Birkett called the payment delay “ridiculously unfair” and called fines imposed on drivers through an “absurd” system a “brutal practice”.
In a petition set up by Mr Birkett, he claimed the payment window was prompting drivers who fully intended to pay for “unnecessary distress” and urged the government to intervene.
“Huge damage to reputation”
In it, he says: “Along with tens and tens of thousands of other perfectly law-abiding users of the Tyne Tunnel, I recently received a fine notice for ‘late’ payment of the toll due. them, I was perfectly prepared to pay the fees owed, but were unable to do so in their absurdly short “payment window”.
“I want the government and Parliament to recognize that there are some very serious ‘sharp practices’ being implemented by the Tyne Tunnel Operator (TT2 Ltd).
“These practices cause a great deal of totally unnecessary distress and colossal expense to tens of thousands of people, not to mention enormous damage to the reputation of the North East with regard to tourism.”
This petition has collected over 1,600 signatures in just a few days.
What the bosses of Tyne Tunnel said
Responding to new concerns and petitions this week, TT2 has championed the current system.
A spokesperson said: “Changing a toll system that has worked for decades will naturally take customers some time to get used to, especially if they are learning a new way to pay.
“While we recognize that there was some inevitable confusion at the start, we are working with clients to help them through this transition.
“The majority of motorists have adapted well to the new system, which is already proving to be a faster and smoother way of getting through Tyne’s tunnels.
“Over 94% of customers took compliant trips in the first month, and we expect that number to continue to increase as more people get used to the new system.
“The revenue generated from fines, or UTCN, was only 20% of toll revenue during the month. The level of charges is defined in the statutes and has not been set by TT2.
“For every customer who doesn’t pay their toll, there are costs to recover that toll. The charge covers all additional costs associated with toll collection and ensures that customers who pay their toll are not disadvantaged.
“We had planned an initial increase in UTCN and, in agreement with Transport North East, we put in place transition rules as people got used to new payment methods. This has the advantage of allowing us to support more calls and reflects TT2’s commitment to working with our customers.
“TT2 is forced to reduce the number of UTCNs because we will be penalized and incur a fine from tunnel owners, TNE in the future if we do not.
“In terms of payment terms, drivers have until midnight the day after their trip to pay for their trip, which is the same as all open road toll systems in the UK.
“This delay is meant to encourage people to pay soon after their trip before they forget. Research has shown that a longer payment delay increases the risk that people forget because payment is a lower priority.
“Regarding signage, we have installed many temporary signs during road works at the north and south entrances.
“They spell out that a toll is payable, how much it will be, when it needs to be paid, how to make payment (in cash, over the phone or online) and the consequences if payment is not made.
“We direct all customers to our website where we have an entire section on ‘Using the Tunnels’ and encourage them to take the free prepaid account which entitles them to ten percent off every trip, no matter the route. frequency of use.”
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