Essential guide to: The Dartford Crossing
PUBLISHED: 11:47 30 July 2015 | UPDATED: 11:47 30 July 2015
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Everything motorists need to know about Dart Charge
It is now three months since the new Dartford Crossing payment system - Dart Charge - came into force.
Since November 29, motorists have no longer had to stop at toll booths to pay for the Crossing. Instead, they can pay remotely (see below). The idea behind this is that free flowing traffic should move more quickly.
Overhead cameras using number plate recognition technology are now in place to catch any toll-dodgers who will be issued a fine for non-payment.
While there were initially some teething problems, over one million motorists have registered and the Highways Agency have released numbers that suggest traffic is moving more swiftly.
Q. How much does a single crossing cost?
Some would say rather sneakily, but as the Highways Agency introduced the new charging, so they increased the fee too. Now, for a car it will cost £2.50 (up from £2) for each single crossing. So that’s £5 for a return. However, if you opt for an account option, this will save you around a third for each trip you make (dragging the cost of each journey to around £1.67).
Q. So are the booths now completely gone?
In a word, no. Despite the hype, currently motorists travelling north - ie. from Kent to Essex - have to still stop at the booths. They are unmanned, the gate will rise automatically, and you don’t have to scrabble around looking for coins. But they booths are physically still there and filtering people into the tunnels.
This is because some of the tunnel bores are unsuitable for wide or high loads. As a consequence, they need to still be directed into the correct tunnel.
Work is continuing on clearing the booths, but this is not expected to be fully complete until next spring.
On the other side of the road, however, things are looking quite different. The booths have gone and cars can now flow straight off the bridge and on to the road network.
Q. How do they know I’ve used the crossing?
A series of cameras will be positioned around the crossing at entry and exit points, to ensure every car is identified and cross-referenced with the registered owner database.
Q. If I can’t pay at the booths how do I pay it?
You have two options. If you know you’re going to be using the crossing, you can pay in advance (although remember if you intend to travel between 10pm and 6am the crossing remains free), or, alternatively you have to pay by midnight on the day after you made your crossing.
The methods open to you are:
Pay online via www.gov.uk/dart-charge
Pay by phone on 0300 300 0120
Pay at one of the 18,000 Payzone retail outlets nationwide. See www.payzone.co.uk/Store-Locator for where to find one close to you. But, as a rule, if you can pay the London Congestion Charge, you can pay for Dart Charge too.
Pay by post (for advance payments only) to: PO Box 842, Leeds, LS1 9QF. Call the number above to request a payment form.
Or, alternatively, set up an account.
Q. How does an account work? Can anyone apply for one?
Everyone can apply for an account. If you use the crossing once a year, or every day, an account is the Highways Agency’s preferred option - and it’s easy to see why.
You get a discount, your account is automatically debited, and when you start running low on funds, you can automatically add extra funds so you always have the cost covered. It makes sense.
You can set one up either by placing funds into it (a minimum of £10) or by having a direct debit set-up to top it up as and when necessary. If ou use an Oyster card think a car version of that.
Q. I own two cars, do I have to set up two accounts?
No. You can add a number of cars to the same account.
Q. And what about this saving?
You get a third off every crossing. In other words you end up paying £1.67 each way instead of £2.50.
Q. Is an account worth getting?
While there were some initial issues with registration, an account is the easiest and cheapest way to pay.
Q. And what if I don’t pay or forget?
You’ll be sent a penalty charge notice if you don’t pay by midnight on the day after you made your crossing.
The penalty charge is £70 and must be paid within 28 days. It’s reduced to £35 if you pay within 14 days and increased to £105 if you don’t pay. You also have to pay the crossing charge too.
Q. When will all the roadworks to introduce this new scheme be done?
The Highways Agency have said they are on course to finish the works by spring this year.
Q. What will happen to the booths?
It’s not clear yet, but it is possible they will be going to a transport museum, as a slice of classic motoring history.