Drivers using the Dartford Crossing at peak times are saving around an hour and a half every week thanks to Dart Charge.
New figures released by Highways England on Tuesday 13 October 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 157,000 crossings being made every day in July, around 20,000 over the Crossing’s design capacity.
The journey time improvement figures come as new time-lapse footage showing the transformation of the Crossing has been released.
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. Instead of paying cash at a barrier, drivers now pay to use the Dartford Crossing online, by phone or post, or at one of thousands of retail outlets nationwide. 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.
Highways England Dart Charge project director Nigel Gray said: “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. 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.”
The project was managed by Connect Plus Services (CPS), who maintain and operate the M25 road network on behalf of Connect Plus and Highways England.
CPS Transition Director Erwan Huerre said: “Our challenge was to deliver one of the UK’s most high profile highway construction projects, while keeping traffic flowing at all times through this critical part of the national road network. We were successful, but this was only possible because of the collaborative working practices demonstrated by our network of contractors, the CPS team at Dartford and the Highways England Traffic Officer Service.”
Connect Plus, Highways England’s main service provider for the whole M25, was responsible for the construction work associated with the project. Connect Plus is a consortium of Balfour Beatty, Skanska, Atkins and Egis.
The work included removing the old payment booths, reconfiguring the road layout and installing an innovative traffic safety system. The work was delivered through Connect Plus framework contractors, Balfour Beatty, Jackson Civil Engineering, Bam Nuttall and Osborne.