Depending on where you’re heading, the journey across the Dartford Crossing may be a regular part of your day. If so, paying the Dart Charge will also be all too familiar to you.
But, the next time you need to pay the Dart Charge, you might want to remember the history behind it. Firstly, it was only going to be a temporary toll until the cost of building the bridge was paid for. The toll was first introduced in 1960 and was originally two shillings and sixpence (equivalent to about 12.5 pence). In 1977, the charge was increased from 25 pence to 35 pence for cars, 40 pence to 55 pence for two-axle goods vehicles, and 60 pence to 85 pence for HGVs.
By 1984, the toll for cars had risen to 60 pence. The price drivers pay for the Dart Charge today is more than quadruple that figure.
From toll to Dart Charge payment
Drivers using the crossing had to stop at a toll booth and pay the fee. This resulted in long delays – especially at rush hour and other peak times.
And there was another issue to contend with. The Dartford Crossing was only designed to carry 136,000 vehicles a day. But closer to 160,000 vehicles were travelling across it each day.
As a result, by 2014 the Dart Charge was created and the charge to use the Dartford Crossing became a permanent fixture. Toll booths were demolished to reduce congestion and queuing time, and drivers can now pay the Dart Charge online, by phone or by setting up a pre-paid account.
Despite protests from various driving groups and MPs, the government has justified the continued payment of the Dart Charge by saying the money is used to help manage demand rather than pay for maintenance and infrastructure. The government’s argument is that if it were to abandon the charge completely, even more vehicles would use it each day.
Who has to pay the Dart Charge?
As a result, everyone who makes the journey between Essex and Kent has to pay the Dart Charge – HGV drivers, van drivers, and car drivers. Even if they do feel a bit short-changed.
However, it depends on what time you are travelling. The charge only applies to vehicles using the Crossing between 6 am and 10 pm. This rule applies seven days a week and includes bank holidays. You need to pay the charge by midnight on the day of travel, otherwise, you will face a Dart Charge payment penalty.