‘The delay of the introduction of ‘free-flow’ tolls at Dartford River Crossing disappointing as it may present additional costs to industry’ is the message from the Freight Transport Association (FTA). The Association has voiced its concern in response to today’s announcement by the Highways Agency that the planned technology to allow motorists to use the crossing without having to stop at barriers and pay is to be delayed by up to four weeks.
Originally planned to be in place by the 28 October 2014, the HA has now said that the system will now not be ready to use until late November.
Malcolm Bingham, FTA’s Head of Road Network Management Policy said:
“This is disappointing news that the free-flow tolling at Dartford is now to be delayed – the costs of this hold-up are unacceptable to the freight industry. FTA has been asking for a long time 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.”
FTA has previously expressed support of the free-flow system, saying that ‘it would be good news for the freight industry’ within its response to the Department for Transport consultation on the proposals to revise the road charging regime. On behalf of its members, the Association stated that freight operators have always maintained that the toll plazas themselves cause the majority of the congestion at the crossing. According to FTA figures, at present it already costs an estimated £1 per minute per HGV in running costs to queue at the Dartford tolls.
The ‘free-flow’ technology will allow motorists to use the crossing without having to stop at barriers to hand over payment, and instead they will be able to pay through a variety of methods including telephone, text message, online and at retail outlets, giving drivers greater flexibility in how and when they pay the charge.
“However, we need to be sure that the system will work, and it is therefore vital that they get it right. FTA has and will continue to work with the Highways Agency to help get a resolution to this issue as soon as possible.”