A warning to visitors from overseas ~ Highway Robbery in London
Be very careful when you come to London on holiday or business, especially if you use the Port at Dover and then the Dartford crossings to get into London. There is an almost hidden toll on the Dartford crossings that raises millions of pounds in fines from unsuspecting tourists and drivers from outside London and in its present form is literally a legalised form of Highway Robbery. In itself, there is nothing wrong with a toll system on certain bridges and roads but the lack of signage and information and the poor payments systems in operation make this a nightmare for many unsuspecting road users and an expensive way to travel in or out of London.
I only found out about this because just received two Penalty Charge Notices (PCN) for not having paid the £2.50 toll to cross the River Thames using the Dartford Tunnel and the QE2 bridge in June this year when I was doing some work for a hotel in Maidstone over a couple of days. That is five months after I made the journeys and the penalty charge requested was £70 for each journey.
As far as I recall, there were no signs anywhere indicating that there was a toll to pay and no toll booths at which to pay said toll nor anything that tells a driver how to pay the toll if you did know there was a toll. Apparently I am one of several hundred thousand people a month who had no idea that there was a toll in force at the Dartford crossings and you just have to know it exists. Of course, local people do but us country bumpkins haven’t a clue and tourists arriving into London from the ferries, are getting stung like there is no tomorrow. What a nice why to welcome visitors to our country?
Tourist from Europe are especially at risk as the system does not recognise foreign Credit Cards so even if you know you have to pay, you can’t. You have to phone the Dart Charge line (0300 300 0120) where they can take your payment on your foreign credit card. And don’t think because you have car that is registered abroad, you will get away with it. The Pan-European collection agencies will chase you for payment and they do.
To be fair, I did phone the people who issued the Penalty Charge notice, Dart Charge and explained that I had no idea that there was a toll and that to issue a charge 5 months later was very poor. I was informed that in fact I also owed for a third charge for another journey to the hotel in Maidstone a week later which they hadn’t issued a Penalty Charge Notice for yet but that if I paid them £7.50 over the phone the matter would be cleared as I would be within their 14 day “Grace Period”. So I did. If you do fall foul of this legalised money trap, call them, explain that you didn't know there was a toll and pay the original fee but don’t ignore it as they will come after you and the fine will just grow alarmingly.