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Nearly 8000 drivers a day evading new Dartford scheme

Up to 8,000 drivers a day are failing to pay the Dartford Crossing tolls since the barriers were done away with a month ago.

A new electronic scheme is now in operation with 85% paying the £2.50 charge for cars. It is similar to Congestion Charging in London.

The first penalty notices have just been sent out but initially offenders will have two weeks to pay the charge before they are fined.

The HA say the scheme is all about cutting congestion and is working well. Credit: Dartford Crossing

Meanwhile the Highways Agency say there have been big savings in journey times with many trips on average speeded up by nine minutes.

There is still work needed to remove barriers and it is expected to be complete in the Spring.

Our transport correspondent Mike Pearse speaks to Nigel Gray from the Highways Agency.

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85% crossings paid for in new Dart Charge

One million vehicles are now registered to Dart Charge accounts with journey times significantly quicker, according to the Highways Agency.

Dart Charge, which is designed to speed up journey times at one of the UK’s busiest transport gateways, now allows drivers to use the crossing without having to pay the charge at a barrier.

Early data suggests drivers are already experiencing significant improvements, with average journey times between 7am and 7pm cut by more than 9 minutes southbound, and more than 4 minutes northbound when comparing the first two weeks of December and the end of November.

Time-lapse cameras captured the moment that barriers were removed. Credit: Dartford

Around two million crossings have been made during the 6am-10pm chargeable period, and early indications show that to date around 85% of crossings have been paid for.

Dart Charge is off to a fantastic start, and I’m really encouraged that more than a million vehicles have been registered for accounts. Traffic flow is going well too – there has been a real improvement in journeys – especially southbound where drivers no longer have to stop at a barrier at all.

“The introduction of Dart Charge has been a big change so it is great that the vast majority of drivers have paid the charge. We want to give all drivers the opportunity to pay and comply with the scheme. That’s why the first penalty charge notice issued for any vehicle for non-payment of the charge will offer the driver an extra 14 days to pay - and pay for any crossings they have made since."

– Nigel Gray, Dart Charge project director

Dartford tunnel's 50th anniversary today

Congestion can often be seen at the Dartford Crossing Credit: Press Association Images

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the opening of the first tunnel at the Dartford Crossing between Kent and Essex. What is now the west bore of the current tunnel opened at midday on 18 November, 1963.

Capacity at the crossing was later increased with the opening of the east bore in 1981 and the Queen Elizabeth II bridge in 1991. The Highways Agency says the crossing is a vital transport link, continuing to bring benefits to the economy, nationally as well as regionally.

TRAVEL - ROADS: KENT - M25 Dartford Tunnel - 2 lanes closed anti-clockwise

Two lanes closed at on M25 anticlockwise at the A282 (Dartford Tunnel), and there is queueing traffic after an accident involving a car and a lorry. There is congestion to J1b A282 / A296 Princes Road (Dartford).

The West tunnel is closed because of an accident just before the tunnel entrance, all traffic is going through the East tunnel.

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TRAVEL - ROADS: ESSEX / KENT Queues at M25 Dartford Tunnel anticlockwise

There is queueing traffic and a lane is closed on the exit slip road on the M25 anticlockwise at J31 A1306 Arterial Road (West Thurrock) after an accident.

There is congestion on the M25 Dartford Tunnel to the J2 A2 (Darenth Interchange). The accident is just after the tunnel, on the exit slip road at J31.

Incident at Dartford Tunnel - police investigating

The public are being advised to avoid the Dartford Tunnel at present if they can, after an incident which led to the closure of two lanes just after 11am.

There is queueing traffic on the M25 anticlockwise at A282 (Dartford Tunnel toll booths), and congestion on M25 to J1b A282 / A296 Princes Road (Dartford).

Kent Police are investigating the incident on the QE2 Bridge. Traffic is now using the Dartford Tunnels, but traffic is only running in two lanes in each direction.

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