Dartford: foreign HGVs will pay like UK ones

The Highways Agency (HA) has defended the remote payment system being installed at the Dartford/Thurrock river crossing and said foreign-registered HGV drivers will pay the same way and amount as UK-registered ones.

Installation work at the crossing between Kent and Essex is continuing ahead of a planned roll-out of the new payment system in October.

However, concerns have been raised within the road transport industry about how the crossing operator will ensure foreign drivers pay their way after the toll booths are removed.

An HA spokesman said: “The short answer is: the same way as everyone else. We are doing a lot of work to engage with the haulage industry in general, [and with] foreign-registered HGV owners in particular to make sure they are aware of the changes and what they need to do.”

The spokesman described the system as “similar to the [London] Congestion Charge” and added that it is linked to vehicle registration databases held by national governments and enforcement by Europe-wide debt collectors.

Natalie Chapman, Freight Transport Association head of policy for London and the South East, said the system looked like it was more straightforward than the London Congestion Charge, but added: “If you look at Transport for London, they struggle [chasing foreign operators]. It’s one of those concerns we have, but we have had assurances from the HA who are the provider of the Dartford Charge, that they have systems in place. We will have to see what happens when it goes live.”

According to the HA, only three out of every 100 vehicles that use the Crossing are foreign- registered, with a significant proportion of these being heavy goods vehicles.

The HA said: “We expect many to take up an HGV Dartford Crossing account because of the significant discounts [of around one-third] available to account holders.

“Foreign vehicles that do not pay the charge will be issued with penalty charge notices and will be pursued by a European debt recovery agency, an approach that has proven successful with similar schemes, such as the London Congestion Charge. Of the 150,000 vehicles that use the crossing every day, we expect no more than a few hundred non-compliant foreign vehicles.”

  • This story first appeared in Commercial Motor's 3 July issue. Why not subscribe?