Friday, November 7, 2014

Freight and Road Haulage Interests Demand Priority Registration for River Thames M25 Crossing

Cash Payments at Dartford Thurrock Bridge and Tunnels Cease This Month but HGV's Need to Resolve Payment Issues
Shipping News Feature

UK – Encouraged by the success of the London Congestion Charge scheme which has seen automatic number plate recognition technology enable both payment and the prosecution of transgressors, the government will remove the option to pay in cash at the Dartford Thurrock crossing from the end of this month. Now road haulage and freight interests are asking for priority for commercial fleets when it comes to registering vehicles for automatic payment.

Anyone familiar with the M25 bottleneck will know that most drivers have always blamed the delays when crossing over the River Thames via the Queen Elizabeth bridge or under by way of the twin tunnels on congestion at the toll plazas themselves. When the government revealed in 2011 that its idea of ‘congestion’ was anything above a twelve mile tailback, the point where the tolls would be waived to free up traffic, it was subjected to ridicule and the subsequent consultation has led to this latest policy.

From 6am on November 30 new ‘free-flow’ system will allow drivers to pay the crossing charge either using a pay-as-you-go service, or the pre-pay Dart Charge account for which registration has now commenced. This replaces the existing DART-Tag and is reckoned to save users up to a third on every crossing, Existing DART-Tag account holders will be credited for their outstanding funds once they have registered so users should ensure their current details are correct as advices of the changes will be forwarded to them. The Freight Transport Association (FTA) has wholeheartedly backed the change with Malcolm Bingham, FTA’s Head of Road Network Management Policy, saying:

“The free-flow technology at Dartford cannot come soon enough for the freight industry. On behalf of our members the FTA has long been asking for this system to be introduced as this is the appropriate way forward in order to reduce a good deal of administration costs for the freight industry in dealing with tolls, charges and queues at the crossing.

“Whilst the FTA regards the introduction of the Dart Charge registration as good news for users of the Dartford Crossing, we also recognise that this has come at a difficult time for the freight and logistics industry, being the busiest time of year in the run-up to Christmas. We will therefore, be looking for priority for commercial fleet registration as the system goes live today. We will of course be encouraging our members to benefit from the discounts available to them through this system.”

The government now has a Dart Charge weblink which will enable people to transfer their DART-Tag account, setup and manage a standard or commercial account or apply for a local resident discount. Highways Agency Project Manager, Nigel Gray said:

“I am pleased to confirm that Dart Charge will be introduced at the Dartford Crossing on Sunday 30 November. Dart Charge will help speed up journeys so it’s great news for the tens of thousands of drivers who use the Crossing every day and for the economy. From today drivers can set up a pre-pay account and get a discount on every crossing once the new payment arrangements begin.”