Drivers will no longer be able to pay at the barriers to cross the Dartford Crossing from October, 2014.
Instead, a remote payment scheme is being introduced meaning motorists will have to pay in advance or before midnight the day after crossing. Drivers who don’t pay will face a penalty charge.
The new scheme is known as Dart Charge and the Highways Agency (HA) says it will help to reduce congestion at the crossing.
It will still be free to use the crossing between 10pm and 6am.
There will be several ways to pay: with a pre-pay account; online; by text; at retail outlets; over the phone; and by post.
The HA says you will be able to save up to a third on every crossing by setting up a pre-pay account.
Accounts can be topped up manually or drivers can set up auto top ups to come by direct debit, or from their debit or credit card whenever a set threshold is reached.
The vehicle registration must be associated with the account and sufficient funds will need to be available to cover the crossing.
However, users can allocate multiple vehicles to an account as long as each one is registered.
The HA says it will be easy for existing DART-Tag account holders to move to a new Dart Charge account and there is no need to do anything yet.
Existing account holders will be contacted by the HA in September and October 2014 with details of how to move to the new account. Credit and remaining funds will be transferred or refunded.
Local residents of Dartford and Thurrock will continue to be entitled to discounts on the road user charge.
Vehicles currently exempt from paying the crossing charge will continue to be exempt. This includes vehicles exempt from paying Vehicle Excise Duty because they are used by or for someone with a disability. The full list of exemptions is described in legislation.
The HA plans to put in place a process to enable automatic identification of exempt vehicles, so once a vehicle is registered as exempt with Driver & Vehicle Licensing Agency it should not have to be registered again.
Mopeds, motorcycles, motor tricycles and quadricycles will also continue to use the crossing for free.
Non-UK users will be able to use the same payment channels.
The automatic number plate recognition system will recognise non-UK vehicles and if there is any doubt number plates can be reviewed manually.
The HA says it recognises that no barrierless charging scheme is evasion free and that evasion will involve both UK and non-UK vehicles.
It added that it was serious about tackling evasion and will use effective penalty and recovery processes. This includes a European debt recovery agency to support the recovery of outstanding charges. This approach has proven successful with similar schemes such as the London congestion charge, says the HA.
Implementing the new remote payment arrangements will require greater use of technology and substantial changes to the existing road layout at the crossing.
• provision of open traffic lanes in both directions
• safe removal of plazas and barriers
• new traffic control measures
The HA has started advance construction work at the crossing to prepare for the introduction of Dart Charge in October 2014.
Once Dart Charge is introduced in October work will then begin to remove the payment booths and introduce the new road layout.
All work is being planned carefully to minimise disruption while ensuring the crossing remains safe for road users, says the HA.
You can view full details of the scheme to introduce Dartford Crossing remote payment here.
In the longer term, options for a third crossing are under consideration, and have been the subject of a Department for Transport (DfT) consultation.