Have you forgotten something? Sadly you could be one of the 300,000 drivers who forgot to pay their Dartford Crossing charge in one month alone – racking up potential bills of around £21m? Make sure you swerve the fine with APH.com here.
The new payment system for the crossing has removed toll booths and relies on motorists remembering to pay the toll through a variety of mechanisms by midnight the following day – or face fines of up to £108 for each direction. Find out what you can do to beat the Dartford fines right here.
If you’re driving to one the South East’s major airports – such as Gatwick, Luton, or Stansted – there’s a good chance you’ll need to use the Dartford Crossing – and its new charging system.
Arriving at the crossing, you’ll probably expect to be met by barriers where you can pay a toll and be on your way. This is no longer the case. On-the-spot payments have been abolished and replaced by a new scheme called Dart Charge.
The new system puts the onus on drivers to logon, or call a payment line, to settle their bill by midnight the following day or face a fine of up to £108.00 for each crossing. Figures show 300,000 drivers failed to do this in one month alone.
Motorists using the Dartford Crossing since the system changed have complained about poor signage and a lack of information on how to pay. Many drivers have also complained the system is heavily biased towards those with online access.
Payment and dissemination of information does appear to favour those with internet access, but there are easy ways for non-connected drivers to pay up and beat the fines. Here are the main Dartford Crossing payment methods.
1) Set up a pre-pay account:
Set up a pre-pay account: This will need to be done in advance and will require you to pay in at least £10.00 when you register. You can manually top up the account or set it to add funds automatically. This is the cheapest way to pay, with registered cars costing £1.67 per crossing compared with the new price of £2.50 for those who pay in other ways. Set up a new pre-pay account here Change an existing Dart Tag account
A word of warning about the Dart Charge account… read this now
Reader James sent the following comment on the £1.67 Dart Charge account-holders have to pay each time they use the Dartford Crossing – and how it appears loaded to generate more fines for non-payment…
Comment: Topping up my account with £10, [and travelling] three times over and back leaves me 2p short on the sixth crossing [with a total grand total of £10.02 required] – a great way to collect fines it seems.
It should cost £1.66 per crossing, not £1.67!
Luckily I have spotted this, but how many wont?
As you can see from the comment above, three round trips will cost Dart Charge account holders a total of £10.02. Most occasional users will simply add £10.00 at a time – leaving them open to receiving a fine for their final crossing.
What the Highways Agency says about the charges…
Asked about the charging levels, a Highways Agency spokesman told APH.com:
The charge is calculated to the nearest penny based on a one third discount on the standard charge of £2.50 – there is no other reason than that. The discount means that for many people the crossing is now cheaper, as well as being faster, than it was before the introduction of the new system.
Highways Agency spokesman
2) Pay online:
Pay online: Pay for an individual crossing online by heading here before midnight the following day. Pay here.
3) Pay in advance for a one-off crossing:
Pay in advance for a one-off crossing: If you only use the crossing occasionally, for trips to the airport etc, then paying a minimum of £10.00 into an account is not a good use of your money. This option lets you pay for pay for individual crossings up to 12 months in advance. Simply book your parking with APH, then book your crossings at the same time (don’t forget to book pay for your return trip, too). Leaving this until you get to the airport could result in it getting forgotten as you battle your way through a busy terminal and queue-clogged check-in procedure. Pay in advance here
4) Over the phone:
Over the phone: Those without internet access will be pleased that you can pay for the charge by phone. You will need to do this by midnight the following day.
However, don’t leave this until the last moment, because we phoned the number only to be informed it was too busy to take our payment. Pay by phone (if it’s not too busy): 0300 300 0120
5) Payzone retail outlet:
Payzone retail outlet:This is where you can pop into a local store and pay for the charge by cash or other means. Simply use the store locator below to find the outlet that’s closest to you. Use the top drop-down option to select ‘Transport and ticketing’ then ‘Dart Charge’ in the next options list. Then input your postcode to find the nearest payment centre. Find your nearest Payzone retailer here
6) Pay by post:
Pay by post: If you really don’t like using new technology, then Luddites will feel at home with this err… handy pay-by-post option. You can only pay in advance and must send your cheques to:
Dart Charge Customer Services
PO Box 842
Leeds LS1 9QF
Please take a few seconds to take this poll and tell us how you’d improve the new charging system..
How to appeal your Dartford Crossing penalty charge
Appeal and win… 8 out of 10 drivers do
The Automatic Number Plate Recognition system that triggers a charge against your car has been found wanting when it comes to reading certain letters – such as C and G – causing incorrect fines to be issued. With a freedom of information request confirming more than 80% of appeals were accepted by Highways England in the first six months of the new system, it’s clear problems go far beyond mis-reading number plates. Here’s how to appeal if you’ve feel you’ve been issued an incorrect or unfair penalty charge.
In total, 37,751 penalty charge notices (PCNs) were challenged and 30,521 of those were accepted by Highways England
Freedom of Information Request from Auto Express
How to appeal: Challenge the penalty by contacting the issuing authority within 28 days of the notice being served. Quote your charge notice number and explain why you believe the penalty is wrong.
Appeal to the independent adjudicator: If your appeal is one of the few that are rejected, you can take it to an independent adjudicator. Information on how to do this will be included in the original rejection. You must appeal to the adjudicator within 28 days of the Notice of Rejection is received. Delivery is usually deemed to be 2 working days after the date on the notice.
Reasons for appeal to the independent adjudicator must fall into the following:
You were not the registered keeper of the vehicle when the alleged contravention occurred
The vehicle was taken without the owner’s consent
The owner is a vehicle hire firm
The road user charge was paid on time and as required
No user charge or penalty is payable
The penalty exceeded the amount that applied in the circumstances
There has been a procedural impropriety by the charging authority
Now that you know how to pay, it’s just a case of making sure you remember to do so. Heading on holiday can be both exciting and stressful in equal measure, making it easy to forget banal chores such as paying for your trip over or under the Thames… Here are some suggestions to help ensure you don’t come home to a big fine.
Get an extra 14 days to pay: Nearly 3.5million motorists have failed to pay the Dartford Crossing toll since the new system was introduced, however, first-time ‘offenders’ will be given a 14-day grace period when the charge notice is sent out. This allows them to pay the original charge rather than the full fine.
A spokesman said: ‘The first penalty charge notice issued for any vehicle for non-payment of the charge will offer the driver an extra 14 days to pay – and pay for any crossings they have made since.
‘This measured approach strikes the right balance between being clear to drivers they need to pay Dart Charge and giving them every opportunity to do so.’
The additional 14-day period will help most drivers escape fines of up to £216 for a return trip, but please remember, this applies only to the first charge issued to any single vehicle.
Register a Dart Charge account: This will simply take cash from your account for crossings you make – without the need to log on and make individual payments. However, this is best for those who use the crossing on a regular basis, because users have to pay £10.00 to join. This is then used to pay for crossings, but occasional users will have dead money left in the account. See the section above for more details, or join up here.
Don’t get scammed: Just like services such as buying road tax and applying for passports, the new Dart Charge payment system – as it is officially known – is likely to be targeted by scammers with copycat websites. Not only will these sites leave you out of pocket for the toll, but they’ll also leave you facing a fine of up to £125.00 for non-payment.
To show how easy this is, a fake site has already been built by digital marketing expert Richard Summers. While his Dartfordcrossingtoll.com site is not asking for money, it’s likely that some won’t be for built with such innocent intentions.
Summers was infuriated by roadside signs sending drivers online to search services such as Google for the payment website – opening up the potential for scammers to take advantage of confusion over the correct website address.
He said: ‘Rather than directing drivers to the official payment website, the signs invite users to use Google. They are practically inviting fraudsters to target people who may not be the most technically savvy to get scammed.’
Case study: Click here to see how copycat websites are costing you cash
Case study: Here’s how copycat websites are costing you cash
Drivers are being charged up to 60% more to use the Dartford Crossing by unofficial websites taking advantage of confusion surrounding the new payment system since toll booths were axed in 2014.
Here we look at one such unofficial website – named dartfordcrossingcharges.co.uk – that’s recently launched…
How it works
There is no suggestion this website is operating illegally, but it certainly doesn’t clearly state on the homepage that it is nothing to do with the official site – or that you’ll be charged an extra 60% for something you can easily do yourself.
In addition to the cost hike, sites like Dartfordcrossingcharges site have no way of effectively checking your details – it even fails to ask what vehicle you are paying for, making it impossible to highlight mistakes when entering the registration mark. The official Dart Charge site will confirm the make and registration before allowing motorists to pay.
Unofficial sites will simply take your money, pocket the admin charge and pay the outstanding toll on the public Dart Charge site – regardless of vehicle details.
It’s also clear the site is targeting millions of foreign drivers who use the crossing each year, with the website offering versions of the payment system in 18 languages.
How to pay the official site:
If paying online, make sure you save cash and get an official receipt by heading here – otherwise you could be left with no proof of payment or means of appeal if something goes wrong. www.gov.uk/pay-dartford-crossing-charge
Comment: The new remote payment system and poor signage has resulted in almost 3.5million fines being issued since the Crossing’s toll booths were axed in 2014.
This is not due to more motorists attempting to avoid payment, but an abject failure of the system to ensure occasional users and foreign visitors know how to pay.
Signage on the M25 urges drivers to ‘search online’ without giving a website URL. It’s this confusion that is costing motorists cash and helping unofficial websites profit from desperate motorists attempting to beat the payment deadline – without the correct information readily available.
We will continue to press for a change to the information and signage informing motorists how to pay.
Set a reminder by location on your phone: Have you got an iPhone? There’s a great feature that will let you specify a location for a reminder to be triggered. So, if you’re booking a holiday and will need to use the Dartford Crossing as you head to our Gatwick park and ride car park, for example, set the reminder to go off as you arrive at our facility. This will give you plenty of time to pay before you fly. You can then do the same for your home address to cover the homeward trip.
The following graphic shows how this smart feature works. Remember to set it when you book your parking with APH.com
1. Open your iPhone’s reminders app – it is standard on the handset 2. Make a new reminder to pay the Dart Charge 3. Hit the ‘i’ button and choose ‘remind me at a location 4. Enter postcode of the tunnel or your destination – where you can pay. Choose ‘when I arrive’ 5. The phone will remind you to pay as you arrive at the your destination or crossing 6. Set an identical reminder for your homebound trip – using your home postcode 7. Enjoy a worry-free journey and don’t return to a big fine
There are plenty of ready-made apps that do the same thing for Android users too. Try this…
Android Geobells Location Reminder…
Alert yourself when you reach or pass a certain location. Get it here
Warn visitors from overseas: With open borders in Europe, many more people will come to visit the UK from overseas – whether on holiday or to see friends and relatives. Many will arrive through the Port of Dover and go on to other parts of the UK by using the Dartford Crossing. This could leave them open to fines because it has been reported that the smartphone-based payment system cannot handle foreign credit cards. This will result in many tourists being hit by charges through no fault of their own.
If this happens to you, make sure you use the telephone system – which will accept foreign cards – to pay the toll. Don’t expect to get away with fines because the car is registered abroad, either, pan-European collection agents will chase you.
Register with DartSave: This is a company set up to prevent you being fined if you forget to pay the Dartford Crossing charge. Signing up will also extend the time you have to pay from midnight the following day to seven days after using the crossing.
Register for free and Dartsave will pay the toll for you, then send an email reminding you to reimburse them within seven days. If this is not done, the firm will send another email with a £5.00 admin charge attached – still much lower than the £70 fine the Government would levy after just one day – even if you don’t get the email until you get back from your holiday.
Remember – like Transport for London and its Congestion Charge, you will not be reminded to pay your toll by the operating authority, which makes this a great service. Join up here:www.dartsave.co.uk
Pay both ways: It might sound obvious, but don’t forget that payment is due for each crossing you make… both on your outward and return journey.
Yes. Despite the confusion surrounding the new payment system, removing the toll booths has resulted in significantly faster journey times for drivers using the Dartford Crossing.
Highways Agency statistics show reveal average journey times between 7am and 7pm have been cut by more than 9 minutes southbound, and more than 4 minutes northbound when comparing the first two weeks of December and the end of November.