UK's first barrier-free toll to cost £84million

Dartford crossing
9 Nov, 2012 6:28pm Jon Morgan

Numberplate cameras will monitor a barrier-free toll at Dartford crossing

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.

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I'm sorry but this is the most stupid idea I have ever heard of!! Surely it is encouraging drivers to txt whilst driving?! Drivers dont want to stop to send a txt or make a phone call or find a retail outlet.. they just want to get going and keep flowing... !

You'd hope that common sense would prevail and at that cost it won't go ahead. But I'm sure a brown envelope has (allegedly) exchanged hands already so won't be holding my breath.

When the current toll was first setup at the Dartford crossing the government promised that it was just to pay for the cost of the crossing. They said that once it was paid for then the toll would be removed.

Then once it had actually paid for the crossing the government announced that it was no longer a toll but was now a congestion charge!!! A congestion charging system that actually creates the congestion int he first place!!!

I'm pleased that they're making it free flowing, so the toll itself won't cause any congestion, but how about sticking to the original promise and just getting rid of it altogether?

@MachinaItaliana, I expect you'll have up to 24+ hours after you use the crossing to make payment, so no need to text there and then. You can do it when you get to your destination.

The American Consulate will be rubbing their hands with glee - another thing they will no longer need to pay for....

If it improves the traffic flow then brilliant. But if there is a £2 toll each way (which by the way is going up to £2.50 each way in the new year) why would the Government be paying up to £500m to fund it?

What about all the foreign lorries and cars that wont pay it???

Time for unreadable number plates methinks. £30 for not showing a valid plate against a possible fine if stopped by the rozzers.

£84 million? Typical bloated cost.. there is no way this sort of system costs that to put in place.. it's not exactly a new idea to use ANPR to collect plate information used for road tolls.. look at Melbourne - they have a successful implementation of this

What a load of garbage, how on earth can they justify £84 million? If some contractor thinks it'll be profitable then let THEM make the investment and recoup it from tolls with the Gov't setting the price so they can't take the proverbial. And £180 fine? Another con, perhaps a tenner at most would be reasonable to cover the admin costs of sending a reminder letter/invoice, then allow a couple of weeks to pay before applying a higher fine. But that would be the decent, fair and honest thing to do so obviously no politician, whatever party or persuasion, would even consider it.

Blackwall Tunnel will be jammed forever! This is yet another mickey take at hugely inflated costs lining ever ready pockets!

Woolwich Ferry anyone??

they dont have a clue ....the rate of number plate thft will double overnight in the kent/essex area surprise who wont pay then

another let down by a hopeless govt with no brains

James Dalton - Common sense and politicians in the same sentence just does not go together ever.

And every foreign driver will be "Toll Free" as usual, this government NEVER think through the ideas they put forward, time for a change I think.
They have (as I predicted two years ago) shot themselves in the foot with regards to Road Tax, as all and sundry are moving to "The cheap Box cars that give high MPG and low emissions" at the cost to the government coffers, so now watch out your going to be Taxed everywhere when it's fazed out.
This will roll out nationwide if they get their way. Watch this space and pay through the nose.

Motorbikes escape again it seems

Half a mo!

There are more and more foreign trucks, buses and cars using this stretch also!

Will they be using it free of charge?

Sounds like another freebie for EU drivers?

I live around that area and have been waiting for years for this toll to come off - only to learn it's now going to morph into a congestion charge. I think i've had enough now. Im selling the house and moving to north east London, and i think every resident around that area should follow suit. It just takes the mick!!! When everyone has moved away from an area where they get penalised to go everywhere, then lets see who pays the council tax.

Firstly the toll was only supposedly going to be collected on this until the construction cost was paid off (surprise, surprise this never happened in 2002 - the due date). Secondly, no wonder they're spending £84m, it's probably a trial for wider rollout of road user charging so that we can pay even more to drive on pothole infested dirt tracks.

Sounds like a similar setup to the Dublin M50 barrier-less toll.

After some teething trouble, that works fine.

Heck, if the congestion charge works without half of London stealing numberplates, I don't see how this would be any different.

Ideally though, take a leaf from Scotland and get rid of the toll altogether!

If its a congestion charge surely it's only going to operate at certain times of day ? Morning rush hour and T time rush hours ?
Also what if I'm on my way to catch a ferry or the tunnel, have I got to stop or 'text on the go' so I don't get a fine when I get home ?
We pay more than our share of tax to use the roads, excessive fuel duty plus 20% vat on it, road tax, etc
Enough is enough !!!

£84 million is unbelievable - only HMG (which has unfettered access to our money) would even consider paying a fraction of that