The “free-flow” technology will allow motorists to use the crossing without having to stop at barriers to hand over payment, and instead they will be able to pay through a variety of methods including telephone, text message, online and at retail outlets, giving drivers greater flexibility in how and when they pay the charge.
The timetable for the new payment arrangements was announced today (19th September) by the Highways Agency, with registration for pre-pay accounts to open well in advance of these changes.
The Highways Agency added that the full benefits of the scheme would be delivered by the end of April 2015, when all changes to the road layout will be completed. The website, systems and infrastructure needed to operate these new arrangements have been installed and are currently being tested to ensure that they operate reliably and are easy to use.
The timetable will ensure that drivers have enough notice to prepare for the changes and that the system is fully tested before it is introduced.
Highways Agency project leader Nigel Gray said: ‘Dart Charge is a massive change for drivers using the Dartford Crossing and it’s only right that it is thoroughly tested before being introduced.
‘We want to help drivers to be ready for the improvements we’re making at the Crossing. That’s why we are saying today that Dart Charge will start during late November. We can reassure drivers that we’ll give them plenty of notice before the changes are introduced. They will have considerable time to sign up for a pre-pay account, which for most will be the easiest and cheapest way to pay the charge – with discounts of up to a third on every crossing.’
However, Malcolm Bingham, head of road network management policy at the Freight Transport Association said: ‘This is disappointing news that the free-flow tolling at Dartford is now to be delayed – the costs of this hold-up are unacceptable to the freight industry. FTA has been asking for a long time for this system to be introduced as this is the appropriate way forward in order to reduce a good deal of administration costs for the freight industry in dealing with tolls, charges and queues at the crossing.’
Until Dart Charge goes live, the current payment arrangements for the road user charge at the Crossing will continue – cash at the Crossing, through a DART-Tag or local residents account.
Further details about registering for pre-pay accounts will be announced in due course. In the meantime, customers can find out more information and subscribe for updates on Dart Charge at www.gov.uk/highways/dartford