Barrier free Dartford cutting peak time crossings by hour and a half a week

Drivers using the Dartford Crossing at peak times are saving around an hour and a half every week thanks to removal of the toll barriers and introduction of the Dart Charge number recognition payment system, Highways England has said.

New figures show that journeys over the crossing are up to 56% faster than before payment barriers were removed, with drivers at peak times saving up to 14 minutes southbound and seven minutes northbound.

Spread across the day, the average time savings are seven and a half minutes southbound and three and a half minutes northbound. The improvements have been achieved despite traffic volumes at the Crossing growing by around 4%, with up to 157,000 crossings being made every day in July, around 20,000 over the Crossing’s design capacity.

Today’s figures come as new (rather hypnotic) time-lapse footage showing the transformation of the Crossing has been released (see video above).

“Relieving congestion and speeding up journeys at the Dartford Crossing is what Dart Charge is all about. These really encouraging figures show what a difference Dart Charge is making for drivers," said Dart Charge project director Nigel Gray.

"Drivers commuting from Essex in to Kent are saving around 20 minutes a day, and others commuting from Kent to Essex are saving more than 15 minutes a day. We still have more work to do, working with partners to ensure that all the approaches to the tunnels in Kent are working as well as they possibly can. But I hope that these figures will reassure people that the improvements are real and that Dart Charge is working.”

Dart Charge launched last November to speed up journeys at the Dartford Crossing and give drivers more flexibility about how and when they pay the crossing charge. The charge can be paid in advance, or up to midnight on the day after you have used the crossing. Roadworks to remove the payment barriers and to realign the road near the Crossing were substantially completed this summer.

Ongoing improvements include refining the traffic safety system, which manages dangerous loads and oversized vehicles on approach to the Dartford tunnels so that it operates as efficiently as possible, and working with Kent County Council and Kent Police to ensure that, for example, traffic signals where local roads meet the Crossing are synchronised to get the best out of the network.  Drivers are encouraged to avoid blocking junction exits and yellow box markings on roundabouts on local roads in the area of the crossing.

The Dart Charge project team is being led by Highways England. Connect Plus, Highways England’s main service provider for the M25, is carrying out the construction work associated with the project, and Dart Charge is administered by sanef, the scheme’s vehicle detection, charging and enforcement service provider.

The journey time savings were calculated based on real journeys made at the Dartford Crossing immediately before Dart Charge went live and immediately following the completion of roadworks this summer. 

In the first 7 months of 2015 there has been an additional 1,206,552 crossings at Dartford compared to the same period in 2014.  That is an increase of 4.18%.

It can take up to 17 minutes at evening peak to make the crossing northwards through the tunnel though this compares to 25 minutes in 2014; southbound crossings by bridge can be just over 12.minutes compared to 25 minutes in 2014 when the barriers were in place.

Regular drivers are delighted with the improvements. Getting to within strking distance of the crossing can be an entirely different matter of course.

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