If you didn't know yet there have been changes to the Dartford crossing. It means that the charging system changed on 30 November to the Dart Charge system and motorists will no longer be able to pay using cash at the toll booths. From now on drivers will need to pay in advance or by midnight the day after crossing. The reason for this is to enable traffic to flow much more freely and reduce congestion as vehicles are no longer stalled while drivers pay the toll.
The new payment system
The Dart Charge scheme includes new payment arrangements. If you are a regular user of the tunnel you can set up a pre-pay account which is the easiest and cheapest method.
You can also make a one-off payment via:
- online at www.gov.uk/dart-charge
- over the phone by calling: 0300 300 0120
- via a pay zone retail outlet
- by post (in advance only): Dart Charge Customer Services, PO Box 842, Leeds LS1 9QF.
You can find out more information about all these payment methods at www.gov.uk/highways/dartford.
Some people already have a DART-Tag account which helped users to manage and pay their charges. This is being phased out and replaced with the Dart Charge service which you can move your account over to. DART-Tag account holders should have received an email from the government to help them switch over. If you haven't had this email call the Dart Charge team on 0300 300 0120 or click on the Dart Charge link above for more information and to set up an account online. Business owners who have fleets of vehicles can add multiple vehicles to their Dart Charge account. The crossing is still free to use between 10.00 pm and 6.00 am.
It seems as if no one can escape this new charge. Even if you cross once and don't pay you will still be caught. Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras will track you by your licence plate to identify non payers. This applies to non UK registered vehicles as well and an European debt recovery agency will support the recovery of outstanding charges.
Major roadworks on the M25
Major roadworks are now underway at the crossing to remove the booths and improve the road layout.
The Highways Agency have reported that the improvements will take about 3 weeks and consist of:
- A282 southbound (including QEII Bridge): initial removal of booths and plaza and construction of a temporary road layout.
- A282 northbound (including Dartford tunnels): initial removal of some of the booths and plaza and construction of a temporary road layout. Widening of some lanes to accommodate over-sized vehicles.
- M25 (clockwise) Junction 31 entry slip road closure to enable safe working on the QEII Bridge.
- Installation of new and modified signs and signals alongside new signs that are being developed to help drivers.
- Undertaking off-carriageway works to develop the Kent Marshalling Area (KMA) - the holding area where abnormal loads or vehicles carrying dangerous goods are checked before crossing.
They’re also carrying out other work away from the road itself, including:
- roundabout realignments and changes to entry/exit slip roads.
- site clearance
- communication and data cable installation
- Emergency vehicle access and crossover points.
Some barriers haven't been removed yet and this is leading to some confusion.
Does the Dart Charge really improve traffic?
We all hope that this new scheme will improve the lives of the motorists that have to use this crossing. It is too early yet to say but initial reports sound promising. This picture was taken by Kent Online the morning after the changes came into force and the queues do seem to have eased.
The Dartford Tunnel at 8.30am on Sunday 30 November.
As with all changes some people may find it difficult to adjust to the new payment system. Already some drivers are sitting at the barriers not knowing what to do. However, Live Traffic - M25 on Twitter and the Highways Agency have been trying to promote the new system. The project is reported to have cost between £48 and 62 million, let's hope that it is worth the investment.
What do you think? Is travelling through the crossing easier now? Leave your comments in the box below.
For more details please view this video: