Motorists could soon be forced to pay a toll in order to cross the River Tyne, in a bid to tackle what has been described as a “public health crisis”.
Under proposals designed to reduce air pollution and improve public health, vans and cars would be charged a £1.70 toll to cross the Tyne, Redheugh and Swing bridges, which link Newcastle and Gateshead.
A higher toll of £3.40 would be applied for lorries, while buses and taxis would not be required to pay.
Cabinet members for councils in Newcastle, Gateshead and North Tyneside have been considering the measures, following a legal order from the Government demanding that they, and many authorities across the country, improve air quality in their regions by 2021.
The Government has also asked the three councils to consider implementing a clean air zone, which could see lorries, buses and coaches charged around £50 a day to drive within the zone.
Meanwhile, vans, taxis and cars could be hit by a £12.50 daily charge.
But Newcastle City Council has said that tests run by councils have suggested that even the highest level of clean air zone would “not be enough on its own to address the problem” of air pollution, which is why toll charges are coming under consideration.
Councillor Nick Forbes, the Labour leader of Newcastle City Council, told the Evening Chronicle: “This is a public health crisis that has been several decades in the making.
“As councils we are not prepared to stand by and let people continue to die as a result of poor air quality.
“We have a responsibility both legally and morally to do something about it. Doing nothing is not an option.”
Other measures being considered include a low emission zone which would see lorries, buses and taxis that do not meet minimum emissions requirements banned from entering Newcastle city centre at certain times.
The proposals will be discussed during a public consultation which will run from March 6 to May 17, and will be open to all local residents, workers, students and businesses.
Additional, non-charging measures are also being considered as well as ways of financially supporting those on lower incomes to switch to public transport in the event of charges being implemented.
Members of the public will also be asked to comment on the level of potential charges.