Transport bosses have issued a warning to drivers attempting to bypass the new â€˜barrierlessâ€™ tolling system at the Tyne Tunnels.
Back in 2019, plans were approved to replace physical tolling booths with a barrier-free system at the key route as part of a bid to cut queues, journey times and emissions.
Under the â€˜Tyne Passâ€™ scheme, drivers are now being urged to sign up for a online pre-paid account to allow traffic to move freely.
Only weeks after the changes went live in early November 2021, Tyne Tunnel bosses have reported drivers attempting to get around the new system.
This includes â€˜infrared tapeâ€™ being placed on registration plates in an attempt to stop high-tech cameras from identifying vehicles.
â€œThere are people who try to cover up part of their licence plate,â€ said Fiona Bootle, Tyne Tunnels manager.
â€œPeople have been using infrared tape over the two end letters at each end so the camera picks it up and this tape only picks up the middle letters.
â€œThere are all sorts of things that people try to do but these high-tech cameras pick up the licence plate four times as you go through, twice at the back of your car and twice at the front.
â€œThis all goes into a computer system and for that car, one [image] will be clear, the four match up and they try and get a clarity on it.
â€œIf itâ€™s not clear, then it goes through a human check as well so that itâ€™s the right registration.
â€œWith that registration number, itâ€™s the registered keeper who will be written to and thatâ€™s through the DVLA records.â€
Ms Bootle was speaking at Mondayâ€™s meeting of the Hebburn Community Area Forum (CAF) during a general update on the Tyne Pass scheme.
Councillors heard that registration details are collected while vehicles travel through the tunnels, which can be linked to a specific pre-paid account.
People who donâ€™t want to use the pre-paid scheme can pay after, or before, their journey via the Tyne Tunnels website, on the mobile app, or by using the telephone line.
There will also still be the ability to pay by cash by using a PayPoint service in certain retailers.
Anyone travelling through the tunnels will have until midnight the day after their journey to ensure they have made a payment, otherwise enforcement action will be taken.
While blue badge holders continue to be exempt from tolls, they will still be able to use the tunnel for free â€“ however they must register their vehicle online to benefit from the exemption.
Tyne Tunnel officers reminded councillors that the toll does not make profit and pays off debt from the building of the second tunnel.
Despite drivers attempting to use infrared tape to get around paying under the new barrierless system, bosses stressed this method is ineffective.
Tyne Tunnels manager, Ms Bootle, added: â€œThis infrared tape you canâ€™t really see it, itâ€™s only the cameras.
â€œWhat has happened anyway is that it comes up as a low confidence reading on the systems and then that moves into a human check and the human check can see the right number plate.
â€œThe infrared tape hasnâ€™t been working for people but thereâ€™s an awful lot of people who must have bought it on eBay or read about it on the internet that are trying this infrared tape.
â€œThe message is it doesnâ€™t work. We still see their number plate and they still have to pay like everyone else.â€
Those who fail to pay the Tyne Tunnel toll on time will receive a Â£30 unpaid toll charge notice if paid within 14 days, or Â£60 if paid within 28 days.
All unpaid charge notices are in addition to the original toll fee.
To support the new system, a phone helpline and appeals service has also been set up to support users of the route.
To sign up for a pre-paid account for the Tyne Tunnels, click here.