Your essential guide to the changes at the Dartford Crossing
PUBLISHED: 09:05 01 December 2014
What you need to know about using the tunnel and bridge
As of November 29, having to stop and pay at a toll booth to use the Dartford Crossing became a thing of the past.
Now, regardless of whether you use the tunnel once a year or every single day, you will have to ensure you have taken the necessary steps to pay remotely.
In other words, if you forget to pay, you’ll soon find yourself with a letter informing you of a fine falling through your letterbox.
So what are the key things you need to know?
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 ont 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?
In short, yes. 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?
Assuming it works as smoothly as it should, then it’s hard not to see an advantage.
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. So this will solve all the traffic problems, then?
Ah. That is the million dollar question. And the answer is likely to be ‘a bit’. Removing the tolls will ease congestion, and should ease the situation. But if there’s any incident, the roads will still snarl up, so don’t expect miracles.
But it should make a difference. Plans for a third crossing continue though, with a decision due next year.
Q. When will all the roadworks to introduce this new scheme be done?
Give it time. It’s a big job and it won’t be solved completely until the spring. So expect delays until then.