Free flow tolling to streamline Dartford crossing

A new free flow tolling system that uses ANPR technology to read vehicle’s number plates and charge them accordingly is likely to significantly improve and streamline traffic through the Dartford Crossing, sources close to this topic were able to reveal.

The road layout around the infamous bottleneck will be completely transformed, as the current 27-lane payment plaza is set to be replaced by four open lanes in each direction. The approach to the tunnels will be enhanced with technology and dedicated extra lanes to help identify and turn away prohibited vehicle types before they enter the tunnels.

The government hopes that the scheme will improve journeys at the Dartford Crossing by removing the need for drivers to stop at a barrier to pay the crossing charge. Instead, they’ll be offered a variety of payment options, including online, by phone, by post or at one of thousands of Payzone outlets nationwide, either in advance of their journey or by midnight on the day following it.

Nigel Gray, the Dart Charge project director, said: "It’s only when the booths have been removed that the full benefits of Dart Charge will be felt, and we will get underway on this work at the same time that the new payment arrangements begin.”

He added: "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."