It's a question commonly heard if you're chatting with motorists in Essex or Dartford; Why are we still paying the Dartford Crossing toll?

The Dartford Crossing consists of two tunnels and the Queen Elizabeth II bridge connecting London and Kent.

The bridge was unveiled in 1991, a few years after the completion of London’s M25 orbital motorway.

Before this, all vehicles travelled through the tunnels, with the first opening in 1963 at the cost of £13 million. To finance this venture, drivers were required to pay a toll of two shillings and sixpence.

According to the RAC, in 1999 the Government made an announcement the crossing would become toll-free by the end of 2003.

However, in 2001, the Government reversed its decision, and the agreement was no longer upheld.

Despite the original debt being repaid by 2003, fees were increased in 2014 with the implementation of the Dart Charge system, which eradicated toll booths and necessitated online or phone payments.

This aimed to relieve drivers of potential delays caused by the previous payment process.

Currently, the Government does not have any intentions to eliminate the road user charge at the Dartford Crossing.

In response to a now-closed petition, the Government stated that the charge exists to manage the demand for the crossing.

The rationale behind maintaining the charges is to prevent a significant increase in traffic volumes and subsequent congestion that would occur without these fees.

In July 2021, then under-secretary for the Department of Transport, Conservative MP Rachel Maclean, explained: “A Road User Charge has been in place at the crossing since 2003 to manage high demand for its use, after a 2001 study reported that traffic levels would be 17 per cent higher if the charge was removed.”

To use the Dartford Crossing between 6am and 10pm, payment of the charge is required. This charge applies every day, including weekends and bank holidays.

Automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) technology is used to police crossings.

A new service provider named Conduent was appointed last summer for the responsibility of vehicle identification, payment processing and account management.

These changes and new banking requirements meant that Dart Charge account holders needed to re-validate their payment cards from July 28 last year, including Pay as You Go customers.

However, after many customers were left unable to access the site following a maintenance period, holders were then given until August 31 to update their card details on the Dart Charge website and non-holders had until August 15 to pay the charge.