Sunday, 1 March 2015

Dartford Crossing

We've just spent an enjoyable weekend with friends in the south of London. This involves using the Dartford Crossing - the magnificent cable-stayed Queen Elizabth II bridge on the way out, and the adjacent twin-bore tunnels on the return.

Last time we did the journey, towards the end of last year, we paid tolls in each direction. Yesterday we crossed the bridge to find the road bypassing the toll booths as the old toll system has now been replaced with electronic payment.

This peeved me for the following reasons:
*) In what is obviously a cost-cutting move (they do not need the staff), the tolls have increased from £2.00 to £2.50

*) The prices were not displayed on the motorway on the run-up to the bridge - it would be good for people to know how much it cost, so that they could make a choice about whether to use it or not (even if most would not have a choice).

*) Although you can pre-pay, they give you up until midnight the day after to pay - not particularly good if you are away on a long trip. And the penalties are £70 if you miss that midnight-the-next-day deadline (halved if you pay within fourteen days).

*) Under the original PFI scheme, the tolls should have been removed in 2003, twelve years after the QEII bridge opened. Instead, they were converted to a 'charge', for which the company would widen parts of the M25 (using the cheap and not-so-cheerful active hard shoulder scheme) and renovate the Hatfield tunnel.

*) Even though I managed to get Internet access within the time period, this might not always be the case, and I really don't want to give my card details out on the Internet too much.

*) The signs state something like 'Go online to pay' without giving the URL. If I was an Internet scammer then I would copy the official site and give it a similar URL with SEO to get people in.

This seems a really poor and user-unfriendly move to me, with little advantage to the end-user over the old scheme. Or do you disagree?


inverted sheep said...

Wow, didn't know any of this - I haven't used the Dartford Crossing for a long time. It makes no difference in miles which way I go round the M25, but I used to use it to avoid traffic near Heathrow. I stopped using it when I switched from a car to a van as the toll is more expensive for vans. If I did use it again and hadn't seen your post I wouldn't have had any idea about this. You're right - if you're away from home you don't necessarily have internet access to be able to pay in time. What a faff that could be. And I strongly object to prices going up even more when as you point out their staffing costs must be reduced. So thanks for posting this.

Emma Westwood said...

Register with Dartsave and you need never worry, they give you 21 days to pay and guarantee that you will never be fined! There is no subscription fees; so you can use it as many times a year or as few as you like - you simply pay as you go! Simply register your vehicles. They will even send you an email reminder each time you use the crossing.