What you need to know about the Dartford Crossing

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Jarad A. Denton
  • 501st Combat Support Wing Public Affairs
Infamously known for its lengthy delays and traffic jams, Dartford Crossing is a major road spanning the River Thames and connecting Dartford, Kent to Thurrock, Essex.

Also noted as the busiest crossing in the United Kingdom, Dartford is prone to major traffic congestion and disruption - especially when accidents or inclement weather affects the motorway. This ongoing issue prompted the UK Highways Agency to implement the following changes to help alleviate road blockage:

1. Navigating the new layout

The new organization of the crossing restructured the A282 northbound lanes that approach the Dartford tunnels, dividing the roadway at junction 1a. Vehicles in the two left-hand lanes can only use the West tunnel, while traffic in the right-hand lanes must use the East tunnel. Additionally, vehicles that enter A282 at junction 1a can only gain access to the left-hand lanes, and use the West tunnel - which has a height restriction of 4.8 meters.

Any vehicles between 4.8 and five meters high must enter the A282 at junction 1b, and use the right-hand lanes to approach the East tunnel. Vehicles taller than five meters should not use the tunnel, and take an alternate route.

Pro-Tip: Drivers should get into the correct lane immediately after junction 2, as they can't change lanes after junction 1a.

2. Dart Charge Demystified

Another change to the Darford Crossing scheme is the elimination of payments at the barriers. The new method of payment is called Dart Charge, and must be done prior to travel or by midnight the day after crossing. Motorists can pay the charge by either setting up a pre-pay account at www.gov.uk/pay-dartford-crossing-charge - which can save people up to a third on every crossing, or by making a one-time payment.

One-time payments may be made online at www.gov.uk/dart-charge, or over the phone by calling: 0300 300 0120. Other methods to make one-time payments are through a payzone retail outlet: www.payzone.co.uk/Where, or in advance by mail at Dart Charge Customer Services PO Box 842 Leeds LS1 9QF.

The fees for using Dartford Crossing vary according to the type of vehicle, or whether the driver has a Dart Charge account. While discounts are available for Dartford and Thurrock residents, cameras at the crossing scan, record and calculate charges on vehicles based on the following chart:

Vehicle Class Vehicle Type Single Crossing Standard or Commercial Account Local Resident Discount Account
B Cars (including trailers), motorhomes, passenger vans and buses with less than 9 seats £2.50 £1.67 £10 a year for 50 crossings and 20p per extra crossing, or £20 a year for unlimited crossings.
C Two-axle heavy goods vehicles (including vans) £3.00 £2.63 £10 a year for 50 crossings and 20p per extra crossing, or £20 a year for unlimited crossings.
D Multi-axle goods vehicles £6.00 £5.19 Not applicable.

Pro-Tip: Drivers only need to pay if they use the crossing between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. Moped, motorcycle, motor-tricycle and quad-bike motorists do not have to pay to use the crossing.

3. Penalties for not paying

A major part of the new Dart Charge scheme is payment enforcement. The Highways Agency implemented penalty charges and recovery processes to mitigate non-payment of crossing fees. With the automatic number plate recognition camera and electronic tag record systems in place, the agency checks non-paying vehicles against Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency records to ensure correct charges are applied. Those motorists with pre-paid accounts will see the charge automatically withdrawn from their account.

If a crossing charge goes unpaid by midnight the day after a crossing, the Highways Agency issues a £70 Penalty Charge Notice. If paid within 14 days, the charge is reduced to £35. However, if the charge is unpaid within 28 days the amount is increased to £105. The notice explains exactly how to render payment for the crossing charge fine.

Pro-Tip: Setting up a pre-paid account will allow you to avoid extra fines altogether.

4. There are alternate routes

While the Dartford Crossing does offer a direct route, motorists have the option to take a different route to their destination. If traffic begins backing up to junction 28 at Brentwood, the A13 may become a more attractive option to reach the M25. Unfortunately, if the QE2 Bridge is completely blocked, this deviation will not help.

Pro-Tip: The A13 and Blackwall Tunnel offer alternate routes for travelers wanting to avoid the Dartford Crossing.