New barriers installed on a Southampton bridge to stop tens of thousands of drivers crossing for free have begun operating.

The red and white barriers were fitted on the Itchen Bridge yesterday afternoon to prevent people driving through sets of lights installed there without paying.

The normal charges – 60p during peak times and 50p during off-peak times – will apply for the route toll.

Their installation comes after the Daily Echo revealed that the bridge tolls raked in £22million for Southampton City Council in just seven years.

According to the city council there have been more than 25,000 occasions where drivers have failed to make full payment for crossing - costing the council approximately £12,500 in lost revenue, they say.

Council chiefs have warned drivers to expect delays while motorists get used to the new system.

But the new regime began working relatively trouble free with traffic flowing smoothly with few hitches.

Workers fully installed two barriers on the eastbound carriageway out of town around 1.45pm while two in the westbound direction were up and running by 2.10pm - a third on the eastbound carriageway was delayed, but began working at 2.40pm.

The cylindrical barriers made from hollow aluminium rapidly spring up after motorists pay to let them through and have caused very few delays.

But there have been a few teething problems caused by people without the right change fumbling in their wallets and purses while people queued behind them.

They included a foreign lorry driver who bridge control room staff had to manually let through because he failed to understand how to pay.

Meanwhile a van driver was flabbergasted when his coin was rejected by the machine and was heard shouting: "What a waste of money - the council can't get anything right."

A handful of people were forced to pull U-turns to seek alternative routes.

One of the barriers stopped working briefly for five minutes within an hour being fitted and the crew got it working again.

Motorist Ken Scrivens, 74, was among the first to drive across.

The pensioner from Woolston who crosses 30 times a week said: "it won't make that much of a difference. But the problem is if people don't have the right change they can't go through like they used to and it's going to lead to holdups. But really they should do away with payment altogether as when they built this bridge they said we were only going to pay for 20years."

But toll plaza manager Matt Jelf said: "we are confident that it will work as it should. "Without the barrier there wasn't a physical obstruction to stop people driving through. "It will make it easier for motorists as they won't be getting invoices for tolls they haven't paid."

According to the local authority, installing the barriers will reduce the number of non-payments, provide clarity to drivers when full payment has been accepted, and to ensure that fewer administration fees have to be paid by drivers when invoiced for missing the toll.

Installation of the barriers will not cost any additional money as the parts required are already owned by the council, it says.

Cllr Jacqui Rayment, Southampton City Council’s Cabinet Member for Environment and Transport, said: “The increased use of smart ticketing as well as many people using the correct change means that the use of barriers, like at many other toll locations can be re-introduced.

“We are concerned about the number of people that do not pay the toll and therefore have to pay administration fees due to the council having to write to them in order to receive the required payment.

“ The barriers are being introduced on a trial basis and we will keep the scheme under review.”

To avoid disruption drivers should be aware that the toll accepts only correct change from 10p to £2 coins or payment using a SmartCities card. Residents can apply for a SmartCities card at

If drivers have any difficulty in the lanes a help button is provided on the automated payment machines so that a member of staff in the control room can assist them.