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Tips and advice

Dartford Crossing guide: charge times, fines and how to pay

Everything you need to know about using the Dartford Crossing

The Dartford Crossing is one of the UK’s most important river crossings, connecting the northern and southern shores of the River Thames on the eastern outskirts of Greater London. Located along the M25, the crossing consists of two tunnels and the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge. It’s a toll road and drivers must pay a fee known as the ‘Dart Charge’, although the exact amount can vary.

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There are no pay booths at the Dartford Crossing; drivers must pay online, by phone or in person at a Payzone terminal. You can set up automatic Dart Charge payments to make it easier, which also costs less. It’s even possible to pay by post in advance, should you wish.

Drivers have until midnight of the day after using the crossing to pay the Dart Charge, or else risk receiving a fine. The standard fine is £70, but this is reduced if paid within 14 days.

There are plenty of signs leading up to the tunnel and bridge, so watch out for these if you don’t intend to cross. With the exception of motorcycles, all vehicles using the Dartford crossing need to pay the toll.

How much is the Dartford Crossing charge?

The Dart Charge you pay depends on the type of vehicle you’re driving. You’ll also need to pay the same charge each time you cross, so a return journey in a car (with no Dart Charge account) costs £5. Handily, you can make both payments at the same time.

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Disabled drivers who are exempt from UK vehicle tax (VED) are also exempt from paying the Dart Charge. You are not required to do anything after using the crossing – the ANPR system will automatically detect if you qualify.

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The standard one-way payment Dart Charge fees for 2024 are:

  • Cars: £2.50
  • Two-axle goods vehicles: £3.00
  • Multi-axle goods vehicles: £6.00
  • Motorcycles: Free

You can save money by setting up a Dart Charge account (covered below in this article). This reduces charges to:

  • Cars: £2.00
  • Two-axle goods vehicles: £2.63
  • Multi-axle goods vehicles: £5.19
  • Motorcycles: Free

What if I am a local resident?

If you are a local resident who pays council tax to Dartford Borough Council or Thurrock Council, you will be eligible for a reduced Dart Charge fee. A payment of £20 a year gives residents unlimited crossings, while £10 gets 50 crossings, with any over that amount costing just 20p each.

What are the Dartford Crossing charge times?

The charges for the Dartford Crossing apply between 6am and 10pm every day, including weekends and bank holidays. The exact fee varies depending on the type of vehicle being driven – see above for how much you’ll need to pay.

It’s free to use the Dartford Crossing between 10pm and 6am.

What vehicles can use the Dartford Crossing?

Cars, motorcycles and HGVs are all able to use the Dartford Crossing. However, vehicles that are carrying hazardous loads are not permitted to use the northbound tunnel. Vehicles that are oversized will be identified prior to entering the northbound tunnel and may either be turned away, or guided so as not to enter the west (smaller) tunnel.

Can I cycle over the Dartford Crossing?

Cyclists cannot use the bridge or the tunnels, but free bicycle transfers are available in both directions instead. They take around 20 minutes and can be arranged using the telephones at each end of the crossing – simply turn up and use the phone, it’s a direct line.

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There is no requirement to book, but you should check the service is running beforehand, as it doesn’t run 24 hours a day. The service is not available for e-scooters. If you’re a group of more than three cyclists, you must contact the Connect Plus service beforehand to arrange a transfer.

How do I pay the Dartford Crossing charge?

The payment method for the Dartford Crossing is similar to that for the London Congestion Charge. Payment can be taken:

  • Online at www.gov.uk/pay-dartford-crossing-charge
  • By phone on 0300 300 0120
  • By textphone on 18001 0300 300 0120
  • At any retail outlet with a Payzone terminal. Find your nearest by visiting payzone.co.uk
  • By post in advance to: Dart Charge, PO Box 842, Leeds LS1 9QF

How long do I have to pay?

After using the crossing, you have until midnight of the day after you cross to pay the toll. If you pay later than this, you will be charged a fine. Payments can also be made online up to a year before making the crossing.

If you want to increase the amount of time you have to pay, you can enrol with a company called Dartsave. Once registered, you have up to 21 days after crossing to make the payment. Every time you cross, Dartsave sends you an e-mail reminder to make the payment.

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Alternatively, you can pay online in advance of using the crossing. Paying for a future crossing costs the same and lasts up to 12 months or until it’s used. The pre-paid crossing cannot be transferred between vehicles – you must input the registration number of the vehicle you intend to cross with.

What is the Dartford Crossing late payment fine?

Drivers who do not pay the Dart Charge on time will be fined. The standard fine is £70, but this can be reduced or increased depending on how quickly you pay. You will also have to pay the original toll charge on top of the fine listed below.

  • £35 if paid within 14 days
  • £70 if paid between 14 and 28 days
  • £135 if paid after 28 days

This fine applies to each individual crossing, so if you make a return trip and forget to pay for both journeys, you will be fined £140, increasing to £210 if you fail to pay within 28 days.

If you think that you have incorrectly received a penalty charge notice (PCN), you may be able to make a Dart Charge appeal to an independent tribunal. However, you’ll need to challenge the ticket first by making a ‘representation’ with Dart Charge within 28 days.

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When making a representation, you must:

  • Explain your reasons for challenging the PCN in as much detail as you can
  • Provide copies of any evidence or documents that support your challenge

If your challenge is rejected you will receive a ‘notice of rejection’ and you’ll have a further 28 days to pay the fine or make a Dart Charge appeal to an independent tribunal.

How can I save money on the Dartford Crossing?

Drivers looking to save money on their Dartford Crossing fee can do so by setting up a Dart Charge pre-payment account online. This can provide savings of up to a third compared to the standard Dartford Crossing charges. Create an account by visiting the Dartford Crossing section of the gov.uk website.

To set up a pre-payment account, you’ll need your vehicle’s registration number and a credit or debit card to make a one-off £10 deposit. It’s also possible to organise an automatic top-up for a Dart Charge account, although you have to provide bank account details to do so.

It is advisable to check your payment details and account are valid before making your journey. Motorists that have set up an account, but haven’t made a crossing in over a year, may find their account has been made inactive. If this is the case you can be liable for a penalty charge unless you pay another way. A quick check online to make sure your payment details and account are all valid can save having to contest a penalty notice later on.

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Businesses can also set up a commercial account – you’ll need your company name and number to do this, but it’s a fairly straightforward process.

If you travel by car over the Dartford Crossing and have set up a Dart Charge account, you’ll save just over 30% compared to the standard charge.

What if I am an existing DART-Tag customer?

If you had a DART-Tag account before the new system was introduced in 2014, you don’t need to set up a new Dart Charge account, but you do have to transfer your details to Dart Charge. You should have received instructions on how to do this, but if you have any questions, call Dart Charge on 0300 300 0120.

Is the Dartford Crossing always open?

The bridge and tunnel operate 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, however under certain circumstances the bridge may become speed restricted or closed.

To reduce the likelihood of accidents, the bridge becomes speed restricted to 30mph if there are crosswinds of 50mph or more, or if headwinds are 60mph or higher. If wind speeds exceed 55mph in crosswinds, or 65mph headwinds then lanes are closed depending on wind direction, but the bridge remains open with the speed restriction of 30mph.

If crosswinds reach 60mph and above, or headwinds reach 70mph or more then the bridge is closed and traffic is directed through the tunnel.

Frequently Asked Questions
<p>Yes, the Dart Charge must be paid for each one-way journey over the Dartford Crossing.</p>

Before setting off on a long journey, make sure to read our guide on checking and topping up your oil if necessary to avoid mechanical issues…

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Charlie writes and edits news, review and advice articles for Carbuyer, as well as publishing content to its social media platforms. He has also been a regular contributor to its sister titles Auto Express, DrivingElectric and evo. As well as being consumed by everything automotive, Charlie is a speaker of five languages and once lived in Chile, Siberia and the Czech Republic, returning to the UK to write about his life-long passion: cars.

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