It's been a long time coming, but after more than fifty years, the barriers at the Dartford Crossing are coming down.
And with the removal of those barriers, the hope is that the worst of the congestion will end too. But will it all go smoothly, and do people know what to do?
Andrea Thomas spent the morning with courier and regular Dartford Crossing user Ben Conroy, to see how he felt about the changes.
Watch this mesmerising timelapse video of work on the Dartford Crossing.
Work begins today to remove toll booths at the Dartford Crossing in preparation for the launch of its new payment scheme. "Dart Charge" will see the end of cash payments and aims to reduce traffic.
It means the barriers will be scrapped and drivers will pay the charge by phone, post or online.
The roadworks will continue until spring 2015 when drivers will feel the full benefit of the changes through quicker journey times.
Until then drivers can expect some delays but all work is being planned to minimise disruption. During construction temporary speed limits and road layouts will be in use so drivers should follow instructions on road signs.
"The payment booths have been part of the Dartford landscape since 1963 but they contribute to congestion and cause delays. That's why they are being removed and we are introducing a new payment system called Dart Charge. From 30 November drivers will no longer pay at the booths. Instead they will pay in advance or by midnight the day after crossing, helping to speed up journeys."
"Initially, we'll work to demolish the southbound booths and drivers should see the benefits travelling over the QEII Bridge after the first weekend of demolition. On the northbound side, the works will take longer to complete because we need to construct a new tunnel safety system.
"During this time, road users will still need to travel through the existing barriers, but they won't be able to stop and pay here anymore. The reason we need to keep the barriers at this stage is to stop over-sized or non-compliant vehicles from using the tunnel."
The Dartford Crossing will change forever this weekend as Dart Charge comes into effect.
The new cashless payment system is expected to speed up journeys by removing the need to stop at a barrier. It will also give drivers more flexibility about how and when they pay the charge.
From 6am this Sunday (30 November) instead of paying cash at the crossing, drivers will pay online, by phone or post or at one of thousands of retail outlets nationwide.
Payment can be made in advance or by midnight the day after crossing.
More than 100,000 vehicles have been registered for a Dart Charge account, the Highways Agency revealed today.
Since account registrations went live on November 5, up to 2,200 people every hour have visited the website to sign up for a pre-pay account, which means they'll save up to a third on each crossing.
To help ease congestion at the Dartford Crossing from November 30 drivers will no longer stop at a barrier to pay the Crossing charge. Instead, they will pay Dart Charge online, by phone or post or at one of thousands of retailers nationwide.
Dart Charge in numbers:
- £2.50 will be the new cost to use the Dartford Crossing – reduced to £1.67 if paid using a prepay Dart Charge account
- Over 77,000 accounts set up so far – covering over 100,000 vehicles
- 53% of people a day register for auto top-up
- It takes less than 7 minutes on average to set up an account
- 12% accounts set up on a mobile device
- 18% of accounts set up on a tablet
- 52 countries where users have registered for account, including Germany, France, Netherlands Belgium, Spain, Poland, Italy, Czech Republic, Belgium, Spain plus one from New Zealand
The Highways Agency said that the full benefit of the changes will only be felt when the toll booths are removed.
Dart Charge Project Director Nigel Gray said: "We will get underway on this work at the same time that the new payment arrangements begin. It's complicated work - especially on the northbound carriageway, where we need to protect the tunnels - one of which was built in the 1960s and has a lower height restriction - from over-height vehicles.
"We’ll be completely redesigning the approach to the tunnels to detect and turn around these vehicles and other vehicles not suitable for the tunnels, using a system of signals, barriers and extra lanes, while keeping all other traffic flowing as much as possible.”
The Highways Agency has released images of how the Dartford Crossing will look when the toll booths are removed.
The current 27-lane system will be removed by four open lanes in each direction.
Work to remove the toll booths will coincide with Dart Charge - a remote charging system - going live in late November. The scheme is expected to be complete by next spring.
The introduction of new "cashless" payment arrangements at one of Britain's busiest road crossings has been delayed.
The Highways Agency had intended to scrap toll booths and introduce a "free-flow" traffic system at the Dartford River Crossing across the Thames east of London around mid-October. But the agency said that the new system will come into effect during late November.
Highways Agency project leader Nigel Gray said it was only right that the system be thoroughly tested before it was introduced.
It's a route used by more than a hundred thousand drivers a day. The Dartford Crossing is one of the biggest pinch-points for the south-east road network. Today the Government said it will do a detailed study of two final options for a new crossing over the Thames.
But some debate whether it's needed. David Johns reports, speaking to Roads Minister Robert Goodwill and Thurrock Council leader John Kent (Lab).
Part of the Dartford Crossing will be closed tonight from 10pm until 2am. Both northbound tunnels from Kent into Essex will be shut for an emergency exercise involving the Highways Agency and Kent Fire and Rescue Service. The bridge will remain open to southbound traffic.