MOTORISTS have called for urgent improvements to the new Tyne Tunnel after finding their journey times are doubling during rush hour periods.
Drivers travelling southbound on a morning and evening are now finding the queue at the tunnel stretching back along the A19 to the Silverlink junction, and sometimes to Holystone – and it is also bad south of the river.
As a result, they say journey times have now doubled – leaving them with the option of setting out earlier or avoiding the tunnel altogether.
PR account executive Nicol Bradley, 26, uses the tunnel every day to get from her home in Shiremoor to Darlington.
“I can now wait more than 30 minutes on some evenings with the new tunnel, where previously it was 15 minutes,” she said.
“I even finished work at 3.30pm the other day, heard on the radio there was long queues at the tunnel so just avoided it.
“The tunnel may look a lot nicer but it has certainly not succeeded in improving anything for anyone, it has only succeeded in causing more misery and delays.
“At first I started leaving the house earlier but soon realised the queues are worse no matter what time I left.
“Now I do anything I can to avoid it. I’d rather travel further than prolong my journey even more.
“I don’t see how they are going to rectify the problem but something needs to be done.”
Rachel Thompson is another frustrated by the new tunnel, saying she has had to add an extra 30 minutes onto her journey from Shiremoor to Sunderland.
She said: “Prior to the new tunnel I left the house at 8.30am and always made it to Southwick, in Sunderland, by 9am, usually before.
“Now I have to leave at 8am while it takes me at least an hour to get home.”
But tunnel bosses at TT2 have called for patience while they try and resolve the issues.
Tamsin Greulich, communications manager, said one problem was the toll booths are further north than the previous tunnel, meaning queues start earlier, while drivers were still getting used to the new equipment.
They also hoped the interim works to widen the Silverlink junction would have been completed by now, helping improve traffic flow.
She added: “We’ve still only got one tunnel, the same capacity problems.
“The original tunnel operated at 50 per cent above capacity. All we’ve done at the minute is pushed the traffic from one tunnel to the other.
“Motorists are adapting to the new layout, that has a bit of an affect on the way traffic flows. Hopefully that will improve gradually over the next few weeks.
“We hope it will improve as we find better ways to get the traffic to merge from four into one and help them get used to the new system.
“We’re just making a plea for patience. By the end of the year we will have solved the problems.
“There are too many people crossing at this site and we haven’t yet got the two tunnels.”