As ‘free-flow’ technology is introduced at the Dartford Crossing this weekend, the Freight Transport Association is saying that “it hopes traffic will continue to flow too” around the area.
The new Dart Charge and ‘free-flow’ system is scheduled to ‘go live’ on Sunday 30 November, but the construction of the second phase of work to complete the changeover will continue over the next few weeks.
Work to install the technology behind the new system was completed earlier this year with two gantries erected over the road, and the next phase – due to start today – will see changes to the road layout and the removal of booths and construction of a temporary road layout which could cause disruption to traffic using the crossing.
FTA’s Head of Road Network Management Policy – Malcolm Bingham commented:
“The toll booths at Dartford have caused massive problems with congestion over the years and the free-flow system will hopefully see the end of the queues we have become used to there. However, as the second phase of work continues FTA is warning that we shouldn’t expect to see the immediate benefits of the Dart- Charge as there is likely to be some disruption as the work is completed.”
The Highways Agency are looking to carry out the work overnight to reduce the impact on the greater amount of journeys. Therefore motorists are advised to check their journey before they travel to make sure that they have the latest information on the works to convert the current system to ‘free-flow.’
The 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 – said to save users up to a third on every crossing.
FTA has previously expressed support for the free-flow system, saying that it would be ‘good news for the freight industry’ in 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.
Mr Bingham added:
“FTA has worked closely with the Highways Agency to implement the introduction of ‘free-flow’ at Dartford and we believe that the sooner it is up-and-running the sooner we will see better journey reliability through this important piece of road infrastructure.”