From the beginning of January 2014, the cost of using the Tyne Tunnel for LGVs goes up 28% to £3.20. The toll hike was recently announced by the Tyne and Wear Integrated Transport Authority (TWITA) as the last in a series of hikes agency officials claim were put in place back in 2007.
The current rate for most LGVs is £2.80 per trip. Tolls are collected at the north end as vehicles enter and leave the tunnel. What’s interesting about the current price is that it is 25% higher than this time last year. A price hike went into effect in January 2013.
TWITA officials claim the increased tolls are necessary in order for the agency to keep up with ongoing maintenance costs. The tunnel has been around since the late 1960s, so age does have a definite impact on how much is spent on upkeep. Tolls are expected to continue rising across the board to keep pace with future inflation.
Impact on Haulage Industry
Despite the fact that LGVs make up only about 8% of the Tyne Tunnel’s daily traffic, they contribute to a disproportionately high percentage of the total revenue generated. The new toll hike for LGVs will only make things worse. What’s more, cargo vans will be paying less as result of the toll changes.
Right now cargo vans are charged at the same rate as LGVs based on size and weight classifications. However, the TWITA proposes changing vehicle classifications in order to afford a better rate for vans. Should the changes go through, a standard cargo van would pay a reduced toll of £1.60.
The haulage industry is obviously unhappy with the toll hikes, especially in light of the fact that prices already went up 25% this year. Companies located in the vicinity of the Tyne are especially unhappy. The owner of one such company told Commercial Motor that four or five of his LGVs use the tunnel every day. His company will pay anywhere between £2.80 and £3.50 more, every single day, just to use the tunnel.
That adds up to a lot of money over a 52-week year. Having to pay thousands of pounds more in tolls adds additional expense that the company is sure to pass on to its customers. Therein is the real impact of these toll increases when you get down to it. Both retail and wholesale prices will rise as a result.
Part of the Game
When LGV drivers first enter their training programs, the thought of tolls is probably the furthest from their minds. And rightly so. LGV training teaches them how to safely and efficiently operate a commercial vehicle on public roads. Nevertheless, eventually the costs of doing business as a professional driver are brought to the forefront. Drivers are forced to accept the reality that tunnel, bridge and road tolls are just part of the game.
Tolls are usually implemented as a means of paying for road maintenance. Just as the TWITA has said about the Tyne Tunnel, UK motorways cost a lot of money to repair and maintain. The best way to claim that revenue without taking it out of the general government budget is to impose tolls.
The toll system is popular because it charges only those people who use the roads in question. Unfortunately, businesses often pay the highest price, both directly and indirectly, because they depend on an efficient and operable road system in order to get their vehicles from one point to the next. Where average drivers can avoid tolls by choosing alternate routes, LGV drivers do not always have that luxury.
Let’s hope this is the last significant toll increase at the Tyne Tunnel for LGV drivers. It is inevitable that tolls will rise come January 1, but the TWITA needs to stick to its word and make sure this is the last increase. Otherwise, LGV drivers may have to rethink their planned routes.