How to Rack up a £11,970 Bill at the Dartford Crossing

Below is an email we have received from a user of the Dartford Crossing. We have removed the sender’s name for reasons that will become apparent.

“I am in a serious situation financially that within the next month will probably see me lose my house and my family as this I have kept to myself for over a year and now I am at a tipping point with no way to escape.

Here goes…

I live in Kent and work in Essex, so have to go both ways most days using the Dartford Crossing, I was fortunate to have a company car for 3 years prior which was automatically paid for so I never had to worry or even think about paying the Toll, the journey was just the norm.

However personal Tax and Tax on my fuel card led me to no option but to ditch the company car and buy my own car. So I just carried on doing the journeys.

At this point I was also desperately trying to sell my house and purchase a new house, and I had not got a lot of money so was just living month to month.

Then the letters started coming through the door – a £2.50 charge was now £35, and a £5 a day one was now £70. When you get 3 or 4 at once you then all of a sudden get £280, then more and more come through, and that’s when you realise that you have not paid. After years of doing it naturally you just don’t think… I spoke to my company and they said they would put my car onto their auto pay account, but I don’t think they did that for a week or so, so more fines came through.

Now I was in a situation of not being able to pay, as I had so many fines. This is where it gets even more out of hand, as I could not afford to pay so it escalated and all of a sudden it was sent to the courts and ended up with Bailiff company (JBW) pursuing me. Each £2.50 crossing then became £197. The Bailiffs turned up at home so I started to find the money. I took out credit cards so that I could pay the debts as I was getting letters and texts everyday.

Things got even worse just after Christmas when the company removed all private cars off of the scheme, and didn’t tell us until a week later, so that meant more fines…

In total I had 67 crossings (about a month’s worth) not paid … all innocent mistakes as I just didn’t think at the start because I had never needed to pay…

It would have cost £167.50.

I am now having to pay off £11,970.59.

In which £6814.50 is the Dart Charge fees.

And £5156.50 are Bailiff fees.

I have currently paid £4,652.09, without my partner knowing, but because of the pressure this has meant I have fallen into arrears with Council Tax and my mortgage too…

I have to pay another £200 next week otherwise I will break my agreement but I can no longer cope with the pressure of hiding it, and I know I can’t pay it next week so the Bailiffs will be at my door…

To date I have now paid the equivalent of 1860 crossings. It was an innocent mistake now I will lose everything. I wrote to my local MP at the start of all the letters for help, and they only advised to make sure I pay the Bailiff on time.

I am only writing this to warn people that debt spirals, and pressure spirals”.

Comment: This is indeed a sad case and shows the problems that can arise with camera enforced payment systems which we have consistently opposed because of the large numbers of accidental infringements that arise.  This is one good reason (there are several others), why tolls on such crossings should be removed. It is of course worth signing up for the Dart Charge Autopay system if you use the crossing regularly.


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Dartford Crossing Charges to be Permanent

Charges have been maintained on the Dartford Crossing despite a previous Government promise to drop them once the bridge had been paid for, which is now long past. They were increased when free-flow charging was introduced but the Charging Order was due to expire in 2020. They are now proposing to make it permanent. See .

Anyone who uses the Dartford crossing should put in an objection.

It is completely unreasonable for the Government to break a promise on this matter, particularly as tolls on other river crossings such as that at the Severn Bridge have been removed. There is simply no justification for the charges, or their level, at the Dartford Crossing and it’s purely a way for the Government to extract money from road users

Roger Lawson


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New Lower Thames Crossing – Public Consultation Available

The Highways Agency have been developing plans for a new Thames crossing east of the Dartford Crossing. This will relieve traffic at the Dartford Crossing which is often heavily congested even after the introduction of the free-flow charging system. The Highways Agency has published revised plans for a three-lane road including a 2.4-mile long tunnel under the Thames which will be the longest in the UK.

The new crossing will link the M2 near Rochester, Kent with the M25 in Essex and will help to provide better network connections for the growing housing and business developments in Kent and improved access to the Channel ports for the rest of the country.

The proposals include some improvements to the M2/A2 which is often heavily congested although those enhancements seem somewhat limited in scope.

It is also proposed to introduce a free-flow charging system similar to that at the Dartford Crossing to which we have objected because many people fail to pay with such systems and collect a fine as a result. We suggest the crossing should be free (as the Severn bridges have been made recently), as should the Dartford one be, and as all major network routes should be.

There is a public consultation on the proposals here which you can respond to – please do so:

We also suggest that you should urge the Highways Agency to get on with it as soon as possible (earlier than the proposed 2027 completion date preferably).


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Dartford Crossing Tolls Increasing

Toll charges at the Dartford Crossing on the M25 are increasing from the 1st October. The charge for cars for those who are pre-registered will rise to £2.00 from £1.50. The justification given for this change is that the Government is spending £10 million to reduce congestion at or around the Dartford Crossing and that it will provide a more “equitable rate between different vehicle classes”.

Pre-registering is of course very worthwhile because apart from the discount you get, it avoids you having to remember to pay the toll. But the discount is now reduced.

Many people who regularly use the crossing are very annoyed about this increase. One of them, Jayne Phillips, has created a petition against the increase. See

Note that when the charges were first imposed on the Dartford Crossing to pay for the new bridge the Government promised that the tolls would be removed after the bridge had been paid for. That has never happened and charges have been going up instead. Don’t trust any Government to keep their promises!

The Dartford Crossing is one of the few major bridges or tunnels that are tolled in the UK. The tolls should be removed. Please sign the petition.

Roger Lawson


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Enormous Numbers of Fines at the Dartford Crossing

Income reported by the operators of the Dartford Crossing on the M25 grew substantially last year. This was partly due to increased numbers of users, but also because of higher “enforcement” activity – chasing up people who fail to pay.

In fact the numbers who don’t pay are very large, and as a result the fines issued were 45% of the total income. There were 48,491,894 users in 2017 but 2,045,840 did not pay in advance. Even though first-time users who don’t pay are only issued with a warning letter and given more time to pay, this generates £92 million in enforcement income.

The numbers mean that about 5% fail to pay as required, although that is better than the 10% that applied in the first few months the free-flow system was in operation. Bearing in mind that such systems are likely to be used for new Thames crossings at Blackwall (the Silvertown Tunnel) and further down river, it is necessary to consider whether it is fair and reasonable to operate such systems.

There also seems to be a particular problem with non-UK registered vehicles where the compliance rate was only 82%. There was also £50 million in charges and penalties that had to be written off as uncollectable, many of whom were no doubt foreign drivers.

Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, was quoted in publication LTT as saying: “No one using the Dartford Crossing looks back with nostalgia at the days when payment involved throwing coins into a basket. Users of the crossing might well question the eye-wateringly large sums coming in as penalty charges resulting from enforcement action – at £92m that’s more than the total paid by account holders, and is up by 50% over 2015/16.

Looked at as management information, such a high level of enforcement action suggests something is going very wrong with the message to road users, many of whom may well think the prominently displayed congestion charge ‘C’ signs relate to the nearby London scheme rather than the crossing itself.

While the cognoscenti readership of Local Transport Today might recognise the fine distinction between a charge and a toll, perhaps it is time for Highways England to revert to the latter as terminology most drivers – domestic and international – would understand.”

One cannot but agree with him, but I don’t think improving the signage would assist. People expect the road network to be free to use, and quite rightly. How can someone from France, or the North of England, be expected to know about this system?

The tolls should be removed as was promised by the Government years ago, just like they have been on the Severn Crossing and on others.

Roger Lawson



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Large Numbers of Dartford Crossing Penalty Charges

Large numbers of drivers are being fined £70 for not paying the new “free-flow” fee on the Dartford Crossing now that the toll barriers have been removed. Plus they have to pay the £2.50 fee on top. The Highways Agency have revealed that more than 4,000 drivers per day are failing to pay the charge via the means provided. That’s about 10% of drivers using the crossing apparently.

That does not just include foreign drivers who may think they can escape payment although the Highways Agency is pursuing 18,000 of those.

Comment: the outcome is much as we forecast with large numbers of people failing to pay simply because they are not aware they need to or have forgotten to do so. It is surely wrong to introduce a system where it is known that a lot of people will default. This was anticipated because it is known that other similar systems in other countries have the same problem.

The toll should have been removed as was previously promised. The Free-Flow payment system may have improved traffic flows, but it is unfair and unreasonable. One particular problem is that the signs near the crossing on the M25 that should warn people to pay are very unclear and are easy to miss. Perhaps the operators have no interest in ensuring people pay in advance or soon after?

Roger Lawson