Confusion and concern reign over Dartford Crossing
Increasing concern that fleets will have no time to prepare for the new Dartford Crossing charge scheme when it is introduced
Originally scheduled for launch in October, the Highways Agency has moved its opening, saying the scheme will now be introduced in late November. The new regime, which sees the introduction of a remote charging system and the removal of the present barrier payment system and booths will be unveiled in a simultaneous launch of an increase in Dartford Crossing charges.
However, there is concern at the lack of information being provided to businesses by the Agency as to how DART Charge will work and how fleets can set up an online account.
What’s more, ACFO, the leading UK representative body for fleet decision-makers, is warning that the new system will result in a significant increase in administration for fleet managers. Additionally, it is concerned that, at least in the early days of operation, fleets could find themselves incurring fines due to the lack of time to prepare for DART Charge and communicate information to drivers.
There is also concern that the introduction of DART Charge could lead to the start of a creeping privatisation of the UK’s road network.
ACFO chairman John Pryor said: “Even at the start of this month businesses have no idea of the start-date for the new system. Fleet managers have been left in the dark and therefore are unable to set up the appropriate in-house systems. DART Charge is not only a concern for fleets operating close to the Dartford Crossing. We have had fleets based in Scotland asking questions about how the system will work because they have not been able to gather information from the Highways Agency.”
From a user’s viewpoint introduction of the new payment system has been badly thought through and despite initial teething problems fleets are worried it will be an administration nightmare for them, as fleet managers will have to ensure accounts were topped up to avoid non-payment penalties being slapped on vehicles, keep vehicle account information up to date to ensure new vehicles were added and defleeted vehicles removed and establish a mechanism for ensuring employers did not pay charges related to private journeys.
The Highways Agency was unable to provide further comment.