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Pay The Dart Charge – The Ultimate Guide To The Dart Charge

More than £53 million in fines and 9.1 million penalty charge notices have been issued since the Dart Charge automatic number plate recognition system came into operation at the Dartford Crossing.

It’s therefore important to understand how to pay the Dart Charge, when it applies, and what to do if you need to appeal against a fine.

How to pay the Dart Charge
The Queen Elizabeth Bridge at the Dartford Crossing.

Take a look at our ultimate guide to the Dart Charge to make sure you don’t get caught out.

  1. Dart Charge fees
  2. How to pay the Dart Charge
  3. Dart Charge login
  4. Dart Charge contact
  5. Forgot to pay the Dart Charge?
  6. Dart Charge Fines
  7. Dart Charge appeals
  8. The history of the Dartford Crossing

Dart Charge fees

You’ll need to pay if you use the Dartford Crossing Northbound or Southbound between 6am and 10pm any day, including weekends and bank holidays.

It’s free to use outside those times, and there is no charge at any time for motorcycles, mopeds or quad bikes.

You’re also exempt from needing to pay the Dart Charge if you’re driving a vehicle which is exempt from vehicle tax due to a disability. You don’t need to apply or contact the crossing operator – your vehicle will be checked automatically when you use the crossing.

If you’re liable to pay the Dart Charge, the fee will vary according to the vehicle you’re driving. It will also cost a lower amount if you have a Dart Charge account rather than make a one-off payment, and there are also discounts for local residents of Thurrock or Dartford.

The Dart Charge fee breakdowns are:

  • Vehicle Class A – Motorcycles, mopeds and quad bikes: Free
  • Vehicle Class B – Cars (including trailers), motorhomes and any minibuses that have 9 or less seats (including the driver’s seat): £2.50 – or £2 with an account
  • Vehicle Class C – Vehicles with 2 axles: £3.00 or £2.63 with an account.
  • Vehicle Class D – Vehicles with more than 2 axles: £6 or £5.19 with an account.

If you pay council tax to either Thurrock or Dartford Borough council, there are two special payment options. You can either pay £20 to use the Dartford Crossing as much as you like, or you pay £10 for up to 50 crossings, and then 20p for any additional use.

You’ll need to apply for a local resident discount either online or by post.

Note: Last checked Nov 2019

How to pay the Dart Charge

You can pay for the Dartford Crossing in a variety of ways. But you need to pay up to 12 months in advance of your journey, or by midnight on the day after you cross.

If you fail to pay within that time limit, you’ll be issued with a Penalty Charge Notice.

One-off payments can be made in person, online, on the phone, or by post. If you want to set-up or top-up a Dart Charge account, this can be done online, by phone or by post.

Save money by picking the best way to pay the Dart Charge and avoiding any fines
Save money by picking the best way to pay the Dart Charge and avoiding any fines

To make a one-off payment in person, you’ll need to visit your local Payzone shop. These are often local supermarkets and newsagents. You can find your nearest options by viewing this map, and selected Dart Charge under the Tolling Charges list of Available Services.

Fortunately, you’re able to pay the fees at a range of stores across the country, so you don’t have to worry if you’re travelling a long distance from Dartford that day.

By post you can set up or cancel a Dart Charge account by filling in the appropriate form. You can also pre-pay for a crossing up to a year in advance, or to top up your account by post, using two specific forms.

You can set up an account or pay by phoning the Dart Charge contact centre on 0300 300 0120. It’s available each day from 5am until midnight, with different hours over Christmas and New Year.  

Finally, you can make a one-off payment, check for paid crossings, set up and manage an account, and pay or challenge a Penalty Charge Notice online. All of this is done on the Dartford Crossing section of the Government website.

How to pay the Dart Charge online with a one-off payment
Making a payment is quick and simple online

If you set up a Dart Charge account you can choose to Pre-pay and save 50p on each crossing, with a minimum initial payment of £10 required.

You’ll then need to top-up your account based on how often you use the Dartford Crossing. Alternatively, you can choose a pay as you go account which doesn’t require an initial payment, but also doesn’t give you a discount.

Dart Charge login

Once you have set up an online Dart Charge account, you can log in with your email and password on the Dartford Crossing Charge Service website.

How to pay the Dart Charge - online services
The Dart Charge is easier to manage online

When you log in, you’ll see the account homepage, which shows the details of vehicles registered to your account, including the registration number, make, model and payment class, your monthly crossing usage and your last 5 payments.

Under your current balance is the option to ‘Top Up Now’ and add money to your account. This can be done by credit or debit card, and you’ll need to maintain a balance of £10 or more for your account to remain open.

Falling under that amount will trigger a low balance warning, and eventually your account will be closed if you can’t pay for your latest crossings, resulting in a penalty charge for unpaid journeys.

By selecting the ‘Vehicles’ link you can add up to twenty vehicles to your account manually. You can also organise them into groups, download all registered vehicles, or change details.

There’s also the option to add more than 20 vehicles or make multiple changes by uploading a spreadsheet in a specific CSV format outlined here.

To view every relevant journey made, visit the Crossings page, which allows you to view and download each one. Details include the date, time and direction of travel.

You can also view the charge or top-up amounts, and download everything, via the ‘Payments’ page.

The ‘Statements’ page allows you to view and download your annual Dart Charge statements showing account balance, journeys and charges.

Dart Charge contact

You can get in touch with the Dart Charge contact centre online or by phone. For postal forms, the address is Dart Charge, PO Box 842, Leeds, LS1 9QF.

The Dart Charge contact centre telephone number is 0300 300 0120, or by textphone it’s 18001 0300 300 0120. You can call from 5am to midnight every day, although times are different over Christmas and New Year.

Or you can use the online form, which requires you to supply your name email address, and either your vehicle registration number or Dart Charge account number.  

Note: Last checked Nov 2019

Forgot to pay the Dart Charge?

If you don’t pay for your crossing in advance or have a Dart Charge account set up, you’ll need to make a payment by midnight of the following day.

So, if you use the Dartford Crossing on a Wednesday morning, you’ll have until midnight on Thursday to have made a payment.

After that time, you’re not able to pay for that crossing, and will be liable for a Penalty Charge Notice and a fine. Making a normal payment after that time will simply count towards your next crossing.

The good news is that you don’t need to pull over and pay immediately after you leave the Dartford Tunnel or Queen Elizabeth II bridge.

Payments can be made any time within the one-day period by phone, online, or by cash at a Payzone store, and these are located all across the UK.

Dart Charge Fines

If you fail to pay for using the Dartford Crossing due to a low Pre-Pay account balance, you may receive a warning email allowing you to top up immediately to avoid a fine.

Otherwise any failure to pay the Dart Charge fee will result in a Penalty Charge Notice being issued, which will usually arrive around 7 days from the date of the offence.

If you do get a Penalty Charge Notice, act quickly to appeal or to pay a lower amount
If you do get a Penalty Charge Notice, act quickly to appeal or to pay a lower amount

The fine will be for £70. However, it will be discounted to £35 if you pay within 14 days.

You can pay this online by entering the penalty charge notice number and vehicle registration number.

Alternatively, you can pay using the automated phone service on 0300 300 0120, or by post using a cheque or postal order payable to ‘Dart Charge’, with the PCN number written clearly on the reverse, and sent to Dart Charge, PO Box 842, Leeds, LS1 9QF.

If it was the first time you incurred a penalty, your PCN may come with a further warning letter which will let you pay the regular £2.50 charge for a crossing with 14 days to avoid a fine.

When you do this online, make sure you select ‘pay or challenge a PCN’ to make the payment, and not the regular ‘one-off payments’, as you’ll end up paying towards your next crossing instead, and still have to pay the original fine.

What fines are there?

  • The standard Penalty Charge Notice will be for £70, and is due within 28 days
  • This is reduced to £35 if you pay within 14 days.
  • If you haven’t paid or challenged the fine within 28 days the charge will be increased to £105.
  • Failure to pay that fine may result in a court summons and further fees.

Note: Last checked Nov 2019

Dart Charge Appeals

If you do receive a Penalty Charge Notice for failing to pay for a crossing at Dartford, then it’s best to act quickly.

You can make a representation or appeal but it needs to be within 28 days of the PCN being served. After that period, there’s no legal obligation for a representation or appeal to be considered.

The PCN includes a number of reasons for an appeal, which include:

  • You were never the keeper, nor a hirer, of the vehicle.
  • You’re no longer the keeper of the vehicle.
  • You took ownership of the vehicle after the offence occurred.
  • The vehicle was being used without your consent at the time.
  • It’s a hire vehicle being used by a customer at the time.
  • The payment was actually made before midnight the following day.
  • No charge should be payable.
  • The penalty charge exceeded the applicable amount
  • Procedural impropriety, which means a failure in relation to the notice or enforcement of it.

You can still appeal even if none of the grounds above apply in your case.

You’ll need to be able to supply compelling reasons, and supporting evidence (e.g. the name of the previous or current registered keeper of the vehicle, a receipt or payment reference number, or proof of your exemption from paying).

You can appeal by using the Representation Slip at the bottom of the Penalty Charge Notice, or by completing the required information online to make a representation against a penalty charge notice.

It’s only possible to make a representation against one PCN at a time.

A Dart Charge PCN includes a Representation Slip for appeals
A Dart Charge PCN includes a Representation Slip for appeals

When you make an appeal, that will usually reset the 50% discount fee if you are judged to still be liable to pay.

The alternatives are that your appeal is successful, and the PCN is cancelled, meaning you don’t have to pay, or you’ll receive a Notice of Rejection of Representations.

In this case, you will either need to pay within 28 days, or then appeal to the independent adjudicator. For penalties related to the Dartford River Crossing, that will be the Traffic Penalty Tribunal.

The History of the Dartford Crossing

The Dartford-Thurrock River Crossing is the only road route to cross the Thames east of London. Construction originally began in the late 1930’s.

It had been proposed by the Ministry of Transport in 1924, to replace multiple existing ferry services across the Thames. Of these, only the Gravesend and Tilbury passenger service is still in operation today.

Work resumed in the 1950s, following the Second World War, and the original 1430 metre West tunnel was opened in 1963, with a single lane of traffic in each direction.

Rising traffic levels required a second East tunnel to be opened in 1980, but this was insufficient following the opening of the M25 London Orbital in 1986.

Although considered part of the M25, the approach road and crossing are actually designated as the A282, with a maximum 50mph speed limit.

In 1991, the tunnels were designated for use by all northbound traffic, as the new Queen Elizabeth II bridge opened for southbound journeys.

The modern combination of bridge and tunnels was designed to cope with up to 135,000 vehicles per day. But the increase in traffic now means it regulary carries more than 180,000 vehicles every 24 hours.

In 2018, the average was 158,348 crossings each day, for a total of 57 million crossings across 12 months. In total, more than 1.5 billion journeys have been made since the original Dartford Tunnel opened in 1963.

The huge increase in use has led to plans for the Lower Thames Crossing, which will consist of two tunnels between Tilbury in Essex and east of Gravesend in Kent, linked to the M25 and A2.

It’s currently planned to open in 2027, with a 70mph speed limit in each three-lane tunnel, and automated charging using a similar system to the Dart Charge.

Tolls have been part of the experience since the first Dartford Tunnel opened in 1963. Originally they were operated by Kent and Essex County Councils, and cost two shillings and sixpence (12.5p).

Due to the funding of the Queen Elizabeth II bridge, tolls were planned to end when they had covered the construction costs. And the Government announced in 1999 that they would cease by the end of 2003, but this was rolled back in 2001.

Instead, the tolls were replaced by a new charge in 2003, and will continue indefinitely.

Dartford Crossing is owned by the UK Government, and is currently operated until a 30-year agreement by Connect Plus Limited, who are also responsible for the M25.

The collection and enforcement of payments is the responsibility of Emovies Operation Leeds Ltd, and cash receipts go to the Department of Transport.

Want to save more money when you buy, sell, or own a car?

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