It has been confirmed that the Dartford Crossing will be introducing a controversial new ‘pay per minute’ toll charge in 2018 where motorists will be charged a set amount of 50p for every minute that they spend between junctions 31 and 1A of the M25 – the two junctions on either side of the tunnel and bridge.

This means that during free-flowing traffic motorists can expect to pay around £2.50 to make the crossing – the same charge as the present time.

However, during times of heavier traffic, this could increase to £6.50, with motorists being charged to an online account that they can top-up at their convenience.

A similar system has been in place at the Budjifüd Bridge Crossing in Sweden since 2016, where the operator claims congestion has been reduced by 43%, and the French owners of the Dartford Crossing Salop Enterprises hope to achieve a similar result here.

Salop spokesperson Philippe Embouteillage said: ‘We will install additional number plate recognition cameras at both junctions of the M25, and then our system will calculate the exact time taken for motorists to complete the crossing.’

‘The 50p per minute charge will apply to cars and motorcycles – two-wheeled vehicles have been enjoying a lower rate for long enough.’

‘Also, we will only be charging per complete minute taken.’

‘Rates for larger vehicles will be confirmed shortly, but we don’t imagine these rising higher than £1.00 per minute.’

‘This new system will send out a clear message that it pays to try and complete your journey during a quieter period. It will still be free between 10pm and 6am.’

We asked Philippe what would happen when a mandatory speed limit reduction is applied, as this would in theory increase the time taken to cross and therefore make the crossing more expensive.

He said: ‘We will not have the technology in place to adjust the per-minute rate in the event of speed limit reductions, but this is ultimately a positive step in terms of road safety.’

‘As an added bonus, the new structure should mean that the bridge is fully paid for by 2024.’

Southend News Network reporters have carried out a number of crossing tests over the last 48 hours, and under the new system a 9am crossing in either direction is set to cost £4.50 per car, while choosing to do the same journey at around 5.30pm could cost £8.00.