Toll booths at Dartford Crossing will be replaced by digital cameras with drivers paying online for their passage

Cashless toll system rolled out at Dartford Crossing

A cashless payment system similar to the London Congestion Charge technology is being rolled out over the coming weekend at the Dartford Crossing in the hope of reducing congestion.

The River Thames crossing consists of a bridge and a pair of tunnels linking Essex and Kent, enabling drivers to bypass London.

Dubbed the Dart Charge, the electronic payment system will rely on digital cameras attached to gantries above each lane to record registration plates of every passing vehicle.

The cameras will replace traditional toll booths, which will eventually be completely removed.

Drivers will be able to either prepay their transit at a discounted price or pay subsequently up to 24 hours after having driven through via an online payment system, a smartphone app or in selected shops.

If the charge is not paid in 24 hours, an additional penalty will be charged.

Designed to cut traffic jams at a busy M25 section, the new system will come at a price for the drivers.

The toll will increase by 50p to £2.50 for a standard car as of Sunday 30 November with pre-paying drivers being offered 83p discount.

The crossing will remain toll-free for all vehicles every night, from 10pm to 6am.

Charges for two-axle and multi-axle goods vehicles will rise from £2.50 to £3.00 and from £5.00 to £6.00 respectively. However, charges for motorcycles will remain the same.

"The increased charge is essential for a much-needed upgrade to the crossing which will improve journey times, and road users who register online save up to one third each time they use the crossing.” a Department for Transport spokesman said.

"The changes we are making will benefit millions of road users who use the crossing every year."

The Highways Agency hopes the £62m Dart Charge system will solve persistent traffic jams caused by drivers slowing down to pay the toll at the 27 booths on the southern side of the crossing over the River Thames connecting Dartford in Kent to Thurrock in Essex.

"The crossing is the motorway bottleneck of Europe and routinely sees traffic volumes way above the maximum design capacity,” said RAC Foundation director Professor Stephen Glaister.

"We welcome the changes but they are not coming cheap. Charges are being hiked and car drivers will pay a quarter more for the privilege of faster journeys.”

He further warned that operating costs of the new system will be up to three times higher than of the old one, with the positive effects on traffic jams not necessarily lasting.

"The relief might be short-lived though. Officials predict motorway traffic in the south-east of England will rise by about 25 per cent in the next decade,” he said.

"Already ministers are considering where a third Lower Thames crossing should go to ease the growing pressure on the existing bridge and tunnel. At the very least the extra money raised from higher tolls should go towards building it."

AA president Edmund King pointed out that Highways Agency may as well have scrapped the toll altogether as under the Dartford-Thurrock Crossing Act of 1988, the toll payments should have stopped when the crossing had been paid for - a date deemed as 31 March 2002.

"The removal of the toll barriers is welcome but frankly they should be removing the toll charge,” King said.

"There should be no demand management tolls on the M25 as the bridge was paid for a decade ago.”

But charges have been kept on under a separate year-2000 Transport Act with the funds raised going to the Treasury where they are ring-fenced for transport purposes.

Construction work is expected to continue until at least the spring of 2015 at the crossing, causing further traffic disruption.

Over 130,000 cars pass daily through the busy crossing – a tenfold increase since it was first opened in 1963. 

Recent articles

Info Message

Our sites use cookies to support some functionality, and to collect anonymous user data.

Learn more about IET cookies and how to control them