Under the new Dart Charge system charges will increase – but drivers using the Dartford crossing will no longer have to stop.
The Dartford crossing is being equipped with a new electronic payment system so that motorists will no longer have to stop at a toll booth to pay their charge.
The new system, which will be known as the Dart Charge, operates in a similar way to the London Congestion Charge by recognising and logging vehicles’ number plates, and will be brought online on Sunday morning.
At the same time, the charge for using the crossing will be increased for the second time in just over two years.
Why is the new system being brought in?
Congestion at the Dartford crossing has been a problem for many years. When it was first opened in 1963, as just one tunnel, the average daily through flow was just 12,472 cars. From April 2013 to March 2014, across two seperate tunnels and the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge, that figure hard risen to 136,015.
Despite the construction of multi-lane toll plazas, the biggest cause of the congestion is the toll booths, at which drivers have to stop and pay the crossing charge.
In order to ease the congestion, the Highways Agency has taken the decision to remove the toll-booths, and instead implement a ‘free-flow’ electronic tolling system similar to that used for the London Congestion Charge.
How does the system work?
Cameras mounted on gantries above each lane will record the registration plate of every car that passes beneath.
Each registration number is logged, and the charge against that registration number must then be paid online, by phone, or in selected shops. Drivers can also opt to set up a pre-paid account, which is associated with the car’s registration, or can pay in advance by post.
If the charge has not been paid by midnight on the day after a crossing is made, a penalty charge is then applied, notice of which is sent to the driver by post.
Do I still need to stop at a toll booth?
As of Sunday, no. The toll booths will remain in place for a while yet as they’re dismantled and demolished, and while new measures to prevent oversized vehicles from using the crossing are installed.
However, drivers are being urged not to stop at the booths, as they will not be manned, and doing so could cause traffic queues or, worse, an accident.
How much will it cost?
The Highways Agency will be increasing the charge to use the Dartford crossing when it implements electronic charging. It says tolls will rise in order to help fund improvements to the crossing, including the installation of the new system.
Under the new system, charges will increase to £2.50 for a standard car. This follows an increase from £1.50 to £2.00 in October 2012.
Charges for two-axle and multi-axle goods vehicles, from £2.50 to £3.00 and from £5.00 to £6.00 respectively. However, charges for motorcycles will remain the same.
As with the current Dart Tag system, drivers who opt to use a pre-paid account will be able to enjoy reduced charges of £1.67 for a standard car, £2.63 for a two-axle goods vehicle, and £5.19 for a multi-axle goods vehicle.
The crossing will remain toll-free for all vehicles every night, from 10pm to 6am.
When will the new system take effect?
The new system will be activated on Sunday November 30 at 6am, and the new charges will take effect at the same time. The last cash tolls at the current rates will be taken at 10pm on Saturday November 29, before the toll booths shut down for the final time.