Drivers look set to be hit with a toll hike of at least 30p to use the Tyne Tunnel next year.
The cost of taking a car through the crossing could rise from £1.90 to £2.20 in 2023, a new report has revealed, while the price for HGVs could go up from £3.90 to £4.40.
Councillors will be asked to sign off on the increases next week, but might decide to delay the toll increase for a few months in order to avoid causing extra financial hardship for struggling families during the cost of living crisis.
The new rate for cars could be brought in as early as February 1 next year, but it has been suggested that it could be put on hold until May 2023 – the same time as the new HGV toll is due to come into force.
North East transport bosses admitted that any toll rise “will be unwelcome news”, but say that a price hike will be needed to balance the books at a time of escalating inflation.
Motorists who pay their Tyne Tunnel fees using a pre-paid account would still get a 10% discount under the new proposed toll levels, making the cost £1.98 for cars and £3.96 for HGVs.
The Tyne Tunnel has undergone a major change in the last year, with its traditional toll booths being removed in favour of a controversial cashless payment system.
Since last November, drivers have no longer had the option of paying at the old toll barriers and must now do so either online, with a pre-paid account, over the phone, or in shops with PayPoint counters.
A spokesperson for Transport North East said: “The level of any toll is set out in legislation and is based on the Retail Price Index (RPI) and, given the rising level of inflation, an increase to the toll has been recommended.
“We recognise the ongoing impact the cost of living crisis is having on local people and an alternative option will be discussed by members which could temporarily boost the level of subsidy to keep the toll lower for a time, providing some relief for tunnel users during the winter period. We know that any toll increase will be unwelcome news, but the committee will carefully consider all available options before reaching a decision at its November meeting.”
If the plans are approved by members of the North East Joint Transport Committee’s (JTC) Tyne and Wear sub-committee next Thursday, it would mark the first increase to the car toll since April 2021.
A report ahead of the meeting suggests that the car toll could be kept at an “artificially lower level throughout the winter” because of the cost pressures people will face from higher fuel bills, delaying the rise from February until May.
Doing so would require £1.5m to be spent from the Tyne and Wear councils’ Tyne Tunnel cash reserves, but bosses say that freezing the toll beyond next May would mean that their reserves would “be reduced to an unacceptable level”.
The crossing is jointly owned by the five Tyne and Wear councils and the toll charges are used to pay for its upkeep and to repay the “significant debts” incurred to build the second tunnel, which opened in 2011.