A deal worth up to £270 million has been struck for a company to lead the 'second generation' of Dart Charge, the payment system for journeys across the Dartford Crossing.

Highways England has awarded the first of the multi-package contracts for the free-flow charging service for the 2,872-metre long crossing crossing, which on average sees 165,000 vehicles per day, one of the busiest roads in Britain.

French company Emovis will be responsible for enforcement services, effectively toll collection on the busy cross-Thames transport route, which consists of two tunnels and the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge.

And Conduent have been awarded the contract is for road user charging services, covering day to day operation of Dart Charge, detecting and matching vehicle and customer records, managing accounts and processing payments.

These two core contracts (a third is yet to be announced) is worth a combined £270 million over the course of 10 and a half years service.

The Dartford Crossing

The Dartford Crossing

Highways England, back then Highways Agency, introduced the Dartford free-flow charging scheme in 2014 when toll booths were scrapped, the first time such a system had been used on a road network in the UK.

Dart Charge innovatively removed the congestion caused by drivers stopping at barriers to pay their crossing charge, plus giving drivers the choice to pay online, by phone or at retail outlets.

Malcolm Dare, executive director of commercial and procurement at Highways England, said: “We are delighted to announce the awards of the first two contracts for the second generation of free flow charging at Dartford Crossing.

The Dartford Crossing

The Dartford Crossing

"The removal of the payment booths and introduction of free-flow charging at Dartford in 2014 not only helped to reduce congestion for the growing number of people using the crossing, it also provided much more flexibility for people to pay and we’re extremely excited to be working alongside Conduent and emovis as we move into the next phase of free flow charging at Dartford.”

The third contract, for which the process of finding a vendor has yet to be started, will be for non-UK enforcement services.

This package includes the management of enforcement activities for vehicles registered outside of the UK, such as issuing and handling penalty charge notices and payment processing. Highways England intends to proceed to competition for this package later this year.

“This award demonstrates our commitment to our global strategy for growth while continuing to provide effective, end-to-end solutions for our clients,” said Mark Brewer, group president, Transportation Solutions at Conduent.

“Building on our strong UK and European presence and capabilities, we are dedicated to delivering a successful program for Highways England and its customers.”

Christian Barrientos, chief executive officer of Emovis, commented: “The awarding of this contract to Emovis reflects the administration’s confidence on our expert ability to develop robust solutions designed with the end user in mind.

"Ensuring a high quality and standard of service for our clients and their customers, underpinned by our expert operational teams.

"We are pleased to have been selected to keep managing the scheme for Dartford Crossing, a vital component for the success of every free flow charging operation. We are also delighted to continue our longstanding relationship with Highways England."