For years, commuters and travellers have questioned the necessity of paying toll charges to cross the Dartford Crossing, the vital link connecting London and Kent.

According to the RAC, in 1999 the Government made an announcement that the Dartford Crossing would become toll-free by the end of 2003.

However, in 2001, the Government made a U-turn on its decision, and the agreement was no longer upheld.

Here is a breakdown of the evolution of this iconic transportation route along with the fees that are required to cross it.

The Dartford Crossing, which consists of two tunnels for northbound traffic and the Queen Elizabeth II bridge for southbound traffic, has a long history of connecting London and Kent.

The bridge was unveiled in 1991, a few years after the completion of London’s M25 orbital motorway.

Prior to this, all vehicles traversed through the tunnels, with the first tunnel opening in 1963 at a cost of £13 million and drivers were required to pay a toll of two shillings and sixpence at this time.

As traffic continued to increase, an additional tunnel was constructed in 1980, accommodating the 65,000 vehicles that passed through the crossing daily.

This escalating congestion prompted the implementation of a new system in 2014.

The Dart Charge eradicated toll booths and necessitated online or phone payments, relieving drivers of potential delays caused by the previous payment process.

With approximately 160,000 vehicles utilizing the crossing each day, this adjustment aimed to create a more streamlined and efficient experience for commuters and travellers alike.

Now, to use the Dartford Crossing between 6am and 10pm, payment of the charge is required and this charge applies every day, including weekends and bank holidays.

The amount you need to pay for crossing depends on the type of vehicle you are driving and whether or not you already have an account on the Government website.

Despite the original debt being repaid in 2002, fees were increased in 2014 with the implementation of the Dart Charge system.

Despite public dissatisfaction and numerous petitions calling for the elimination of toll charges, the Government currently has no intentions of making the Dartford Crossing toll-free and announced that it was here to stay in October 2019.

RAC Head of Roads Policy, Nicholas Lyes said: “Drivers who use the Dartford Crossing are likely to feel short-changed considering the cost of construction has since been paid back.

“Our view is that tolls should be reviewed and, if affordable, abolished completely.

“The Government was able to do this with the Severn Crossing so why not the Dartford Crossing? The only justification for maintaining a charge, which could be lower than current prices, would be for routine maintenance and inspection, all of which surely could be done in-house by Highways England and its teams.”

In response to a now-closed petition, the Government stated that the charge exists to manage the demand for the crossing.

The rationale behind maintaining the charges is to prevent a significant increase in traffic volumes and subsequent congestion that would occur without these fees.

As the debate rages on, the Dartford Crossing remains a vital thoroughfare for south east London and Kent residents.