The introduction of new free-flow charging technology at the Dartford Crossing has been delayed until November.
The Dart Charge technology, which was originally due to go live in October, will allow motorists to use the Dartford Crossing without having to stop at barriers to hand over payment. Road users will be able to pay through a variety of methods including telephone, text message, online, and at retail outlets – giving motorists greater flexibility in how and when they pay the charge.
According to the Highways Agency, the full benefits of the scheme will 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.”
The Freight Transport Association (FTA) has expressed its disappointment over the delay.
Malcolm Bingham, FTA’s head of road network management policy, 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.
For further information visit www.gov.uk/highways/dartford