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Dartford Crossing: Delays to new payment system ‘disappointing’

PUBLISHED: 13:45 19 September 2014 | UPDATED: 14:26 19 September 2014

Motorists will soon pay through the Dart Charge scheme

Motorists will soon pay through the Dart Charge scheme

Archant

Changes to the way the crossing is paid for

There are delays to plans to replace the current Dartford Crossing payment system with the new ‘Dart Charge’ scheme.

The new plans, which would see payment booths scrapped in favour of a remote payment system is said to be faster because it should result in free flowing traffic, rather than queuing to pay in cash.

Earlier predictions that the new Dart Charge scheme would take effect in October seem to have fallen by the wayside, as the Highways Agency today announced the new payment arrangements will come into effect during late November.

This news has been met with disappointed in some quarters, with the Freight Transport Association (FTA) calling the delay ‘disappointing’.

Malcolm Bingham, FTA’s Head of Road Network Management Policy said: “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.”

The FTA had previously expressed support of the free-flow system, saying that ‘it would be good news for the freight industry’.

The association stated that the toll plazas themselves cause the majority of the congestion at the crossing.

However, the full benefits of the scheme seem to still be on track, with promises to deliver by the end of April 2015 still in place, this is 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.”

Mr Bingham added: “We need to be sure that the system will work, and it is therefore vital that they get it right.

“FTA has and will continue to work with the Highways Agency to help get a resolution to this issue as soon as possible.”

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