Elderly driver has caravan holiday ruined after ‘103 attempts to pay toll’

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Retired university lecturer Ivor Rodgers claimed he read out his vehicle registration number 103 times to the Tyne Tunnel’s Interactive Voice Response (IVR) technology. He has now vowed to never use the tunnel again after struggling to pay the £1.90 toll charge over the phone.

Mr Rodgers said that the first two days of his five-day holiday were ruined by fears he would be landed with a £100 fine for being unable to pay the toll within 28 days.

The 81-year-old told ChronicleLive: “The first two days of my holiday were ruined by the thought of a £100 fine, as I tried 103 times to read out my registration plate. Needless to say, I will never use that route again.”

Mr Rodgers travelled to Cresswell Towers Caravan Park on Wednesday, July 27, to begin his holiday with his wife, her daughter and two children who had arrived at the caravan park two days earlier.

Upon arrival, he called Tyne Tunnel’s telephone toll payment system to pay for his journey as he was unable to access Wi-Fi at his location to pay online.

But Mr Rodgers claimed that each attempt was met by the automatic voice “frustratingly” responding with one or two errors.

He said: “My first attempt to carefully and clearly read out the car’s registration was read back incorrectly by the automatic voice, so I tried again and again, actually another 49 times, but each time the automatic voice frustratingly responded with one or two errors.

“Hence, I gave up, only to start again the following morning, as failure would have cost me a £100 fine.

“Incredibly, after 25 further attempts, the system still persisted in not responding accurately to my verbal efforts to register the five letters and two numbers, no matter how clearly I spoke.

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“After lunch, after continued dogged persistence, the 28th attempt actually worked, and I was able to successfully pay the £1.90.”

However, the retired lecturer said he unknowingly paid for a completely different car after the Interactive Voice Response technology picked up another registration plate.

It wasn’t until he received an unpaid fine notice that he realised something went wrong.

Mr Rodgers said: “I was so willing everything to be right that I thought it was. I thought the whole thing had gone through correctly until I got this unpaid fine through.

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“I spoke to someone on the phone who asked me for the date and approximate time and they pulled up all the cars going through and they asked me for the first six digits of my debit card and then we both realised what had happened.”

After notifying TT2 of the mistake, Mr Rodgers said his fine was cancelled.

However, following his struggles, the 81-year-old said he avoided the tunnel on his journey home as he couldn’t face experiencing any further difficulties navigating the system.

He hopes his experience will help encourage TT2 to look at ways to make telephone payments simpler.

He added: “I humbly suggest should have their verbal system replaced by a no-nonsense foolproof system, for example by physically inserting letters and numbers into boxes.”

Customer service manager at TT2, Chris Ward, said: “We are very sorry for any inconvenience caused to Mr Rodgers.

“Our Interactive Voice Response (IVR) technology is generally very good at recognising a range of different accents but, on this occasion, it appears to have caused Mr Rodgers some frustration, which is regrettable.

“If a customer does not have Wi-Fi or is unable to use IVR to pay their toll, we would advise them to visit a PayPoint to pay by card or cash. There are over 28,000 locations across the UK, including outlets near to the tunnel exits.

“If you are unsure where the PayPoints are, please give our customer contact centre a call and they will happily advise you of your nearest PayPoint.

“If customers are planning a journey through the tunnels, we also offer the option to pay for the journey in advance, either via opening a Pre-Paid account or using the Pay for Passage feature. Journeys can be purchased up to 12 months in advance, online or via a PayPoint.”

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