The Government will launch the UK’s first barrier-free toll in two years’ time – and it claims the scheme will cost as much as £84million to set up.
The toll booths at the Thames crossing in Dartford, Kent, will be replaced with automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras in October 2014.
Rather than hand over cash, drivers will pay via text, phone, online or at retail outlets – in a system similar to the London Congestion Charge. The Department for Transport says the new ‘free-flow’ set-up will speed up traffic and reduce congestion.
However, the added efficiency will come at a cost. The Highways Agency expects to pay up to £84m to whoever wins the contract to create the free-flow toll, to finance tearing down barriers, installing cameras and building the payment system.
So it’d take 42 million cars paying the £2 toll to break even. The contractor will also rake in between £237m and £478m from the Government to run the toll for 10 years.
Absent-minded crossing users will also feel the pinch, as current Government proposals on penalising motorists who drive through free-flow tolls without paying suggest fines should be as high as £180.
The authorities could be given power to impound the vehicles of drivers who have three unpaid penalty notices.