Beware of being caught on camera and fined, as Britain’s busiest toll road dispenses with traditional toll-booths.

From November 30, 2014, the Dartford Crossing over the M25 will operate a ‘free flow’ system without barriers. Whilst motorcycles and scooters will remain exempt, many bike owners also have the use of a car and could be caught out by the new ruling.

Instead of handing over the fee at the barriers, motorists must pay online or by phone before they use the crossing, or on an electronic system, ‘Dart Charge’ (similar to that used for the London Congestion Charge – after).

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Vehicles passing north through the two tolled tunnels (or south across the Queen Elizabeth Bridge) will have their number plates filmed by up to 18 ‘ANPR’ cameras which will police the system. If a car driver fails to pay the new £2.50 toll (up 50p from the current cost of £2), he or she will be fined automatically up to £105.

Failure to pay online or by phone by midnight of the following day will, when ‘free-flow’ goes live, result in a penalty charge of £35 (if paid within 14 days), £70 (up to 28 days) and £105 thereafter.

Many unwitting drivers will be caught out – especially if they are only occasional users. Mistakes on the ANPR number plate recognition system could also mean many drivers being unfairly penalised.

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The Highways Agency says all profits from tolling will go to the Treasury but must, by law, be spent on transport-related projects. However the cost of the tolled crossing was paid off in 2003, but the toll continued because the Government said a continued charge was necessary to ‘restrict demand’.

www.gov.uk/highways/dartford

Tony Carter

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