The demolition of the Tyne Tunnelâ€™s toll booths has begun, after the crossing moved to a new cashless system.
Motorists have had a dramatically different experience going through the tunnel for the past few weeks, driving straight through without stopping to pay their toll.
The new â€˜open road tollingâ€™ scheme means that drivers must instead pay for their journeys via a pre-paid account with tunnel operator TT2, or do so before midnight the next day via an online service, an automated telephone line, or at PayPoint tills found in shops.
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Now that the blue and orange toll booths on the north side of the tunnel are no longer needed, they are being torn down and will all be gone by next spring.
Shaun Simmons, customer operations manager at TT2, said: â€œThe works to dismantle the toll plazas will be completed as quickly as possible and we are managing the road to ensure minimal disruption to drivers.
â€œAny changes, like these, will naturally take a little getting used to, but the plaza removal will, when complete, make journeys faster and smoother.
â€œWe will continue to monitor the traffic flow and keep drivers informed of the progress.â€
The first set of toll plazas, which span eight lanes, to be dismantled are those on the northbound side of the A19. Drivers coming out of the tunnel will be filtered into lanes seven and eight to create two continuous lanes of traffic.
There were complaints of long tailbacks when the new â€˜Tyne Passâ€™ system came into force on November 8, as drivers got used to the new system, while TT2 also suffered a glitch in its mobile payment app and other technical problems that saw some motorists charged twice for their journeys.
There have also been reports of scammers trying to avoid tolls by covering part of their licence plate with infrared tape, in an attempt to trick the automatic number plate recognition cameras that now record vehicles' trips.
TT2 says that around three quarters of its customers now use a pre-paid account for their tolls.
It is hoped that the new system will save 1,944 hours a week in queuing time and reduce CO2 emissions around the tunnel by 90%, with traffic no longer being brought to a standstill.
Drivers have also been warned that the northbound tunnel will be shut this weekend for maintenance work, from 10pm this Friday to 5am on Monday, December 6, and that the southbound tunnel will have to take all traffic in both directions.
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