Published: 00:01, 06 January 2018
More than £53 million in fines has been generated since toll booths were removed at the Dartford Crossing.
Pay barriers were taken away in November 2014 and replaced with automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras which track motorists’ journeys between Kent and Essex and issue automatic fixed penalty notices if no payment is made within 24 hours.
Figures given to online motoring publication Carbuyer by Highways England under the Freedom of Information Act showed 7.7m notices have been issued since the tolls were removed.
Scroll down for video
The fee currently stands at £2.50 for cars and £3 or £6 for buses, vans and lorries and motorists can pay via phone, app, online, postal or Payzone services.
If no payment is made within a day a fine of £70 is imposed, which is halved if paid within 14 days or increased to £108 if not paid within 28 days.
According to Highways England’s annual accounts in the 2015/16 financial year £53.1m worth of enforcement income was generated by motorists who failed to pay the toll.
The figure is almost a third of the crossing’s £161m annual income, which rose by almost £62m on the previous year.
The agency’s accounts report states the increase was “primarily due to the application of enforcement management measures across the whole financial year and increases to traffic flow”.
Before the barriers were removed no enforcement income was published by Highways England.
Proceeds from the crossing are said to be passed to government and are ring-fenced for transport projects.
A Highways England spokesman said: “Dart Charge has removed a major source of congestion at the Dartford Crossing, and is giving drivers more flexibility about how and when they pay the crossing charge.
“More than 95% of drivers are paying their Dart Charge on time, comparing well to any other similar scheme worldwide.
It is only fair to these drivers that non-payment is enforced, and we try to do this fairly.
“We are absolutely clear that drivers using the Dartford Crossing need to pay their Dart Charge, but we try and offer drivers maximum opportunity to avoid a penalty.
"For example, all first offenders are offered the opportunity to pay their outstanding crossing charges and cancel their penalties.”
More by this authorEd McConnell
This website and its associated newspaper are members of the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO)