TT2, which operates the tunnels on behalf of the North East Combined Authorities, says it is axing barriers at the tunnels from November in a bid to make journeys quicker and cut congestion – the some drivers have raised concerns about the new system.
Now tunnel bosses say the new scheme has created a range of new roles at its newly developed contact centre in Wallsend.
Before the end of the year, drivers will be able to drive straight through the tunnels without stopping, and either pre-pay or pay afterwards for their journey.
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In September 2021, it emerged TT2 was planning to push back the scheme due to a huge loss of income caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, until North East council leaders – including South Tyneside, Sunderland, North Tyneside and Northumberland – stepped in with an offer to keep the ‘Tyne Pass’ project on track.
Chief Executive at TT2, Philip Smith said the project – called Tyne Pass – has generated a range of new employment opportunities for local people.
The jobs include support, supervisory, management and technical roles across the business - from customer service and quality assurance, to training and development, to IT.
“We are really pleased to be able to support our local communities with these new opportunities,” said Mr Smith.
"It was very important to us that the jobs were not located abroad or elsewhere in the UK but right here in the North East because we know that local people will provide our customers with a first class service.
“We are undertaking a phased approach to changing the tunnels over to open-road-tolling and many of these new roles have been created to support our customers during this period of change and beyond.
“Around 67% of our customers now have pre-paid accounts to pay their tolls and this is increasing by around 2% every week. Many of the new jobs were created to support customers to change over to pre-paid accounts. Pre-paying is a popular option because it makes each journey 10% cheaper, ensures you never forget to pay your toll, and is free to set up and use.”
Lisa, 39, from Cramlington, was unemployed before winning a job at TT2. She explains: “When I lost my job in travel due to the pandemic, I was at a loss. I decided to look for a different career path as the travel sector wasn’t an option.
“Within six weeks of starting my job as a customer experience agent, I managed to secure a team leader position. The Tyne Pass project is really exciting to work on and I have learned so many new skills.
"The team is growing and it’s great to be a part of that.”
Tunnel bosses say open road tolling will create quicker, smoother, more reliable journeys for tunnel users and reduce congestion.
They say it is also much better for the environment, reducing CO2 emissions by 50,000 tonnes per year, and improve air quality, while businesses will save time, and therefore money, by being able to transport goods faster.