Paying the Dartford Crossing toll: charges, penalties and operating hours

November 07, 2023 by

The Dartford Crossing may seem simple but can easily catch you out. Here’s what you need to know to avoid paying any fines when you cross…

What is the Dartford Crossing?

The Dartford Crossing is a major road crossing on the UK’s M25 orbital motorway in London. It goes over the river Thames, with a four-lane bridge going south and a pair of two-lane tunnels heading north.

There is a 50mph speed limit going both ways, and it’s the only way of crossing the Thames east of London. It connects Dartford in Kent with Thurrock, and it’s a major route for destinations such as Dover and the Channel Tunnel.

As you might expect from the M25, the crossing can get extremely congested, especially at peak hours. If the crossing is closed for any reason, the only alternative route is through London itself or to go the other way around the M25. The bridge can sometimes be closed due to high winds, in which case one of the two tunnels will be used for southbound travel to avoid total traffic chaos.

What are the Dartford Crossing’s operating hours?

You have to pay to use the Dartford Crossing between 6am and 10pm, it’s free to cross outside of these hours. The charge is enforced every day, including weekends and bank holidays.

How do I pay the Dartford Crossing toll?

The Dart Charge doesn’t work in the same way as a traditional toll bridge because there’s no physical barrier you have to stop at, these were removed in 2014. Instead, there are number plate recognition cameras which will record your crossing, and you then have until midnight the following day to pay.

The easiest way to pay is online. You can pay for a one-off crossing on the website, or you can set up an account if you use the route on a semi-regular basis, and you get a small discount if you pay this way.

Having an account also means payments are taken automatically when you make a crossing. You simply register your number plate, link a payment card and there’s no risk of forgetting to pay. You can also pay by phone, by post or with cash at a Payzone store.

How much is the Dartford Crossing toll?

Motorcycles, mopeds and quad bikes can use the crossing for free, but cars, motorhomes and minibuses with nine seats or less (including the driver’s seat) will cost £2.50. This is reduced to £2.00 if you have a Dart Charge account.

Buses, coaches and goods vehicles have to pay slightly more than this. Vehicles with two axles are charged £3.00, dropping to £2.63 if you have an account, while vehicles with more than two axles pay £6.00, reduced to £5.19 with an account.

If you get free vehicle tax because of a disability, you don’t have to pay to use the Dartford Crossing. Your car will automatically be checked when you cross, so you don’t have to do anything.

If you live in the council boundaries of Dartford or Thurrock, you can apply for a local resident’s discount. You will have two options, you can:

  • Pay £20 per year and get unlimited crossings
  • Pay £10 per year for 50 crossings.

If you pay £10 and run out of crossings, you can either pay £5 for 25 additional crossings, or pay £10 to upgrade to the £20 plan.

What happens if I forget to pay the Dartford Crossing toll?

It’s easy to forget to pay the Dart Charge, especially if you’re doing a lot of miles. If you don’t pay, unfortunately you’ll be slapped with a £70 fine.

You have to pay this within 28 days, and it drops to £35 if you cough up within 14 days. It’ll also increase to £105 if you don’t pay it. This is in addition to paying the initial fee.

If you know you’ll be using the Dartford Crossing on your journey, it could be worth setting a reminder on your phone to pay the charge the following day before you set off.

Can I avoid paying the Dartford Crossing charge?

Other than travelling outside the operating hours, there’s no practical way of avoiding the Dartford Crossing charge.

The next closest point where you can cross the Thames is the Blackwall Tunnel in Greenwich, and that will add around 30 miles to your journey, as well as over an hour fighting through the traffic of central London. Not really worth it for the sake of saving £2.50.

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