Time-lapse video shows the old northbound payment booths and barriers being removed to allow the new safety system - which will prevent oversize vehicles and dangerous loads from entering the tunnels – to be installed. While the new safety system is installed northbound traffic is being controlled using the old southbound barriers.
The work, which is expected to be complete in April, is an important part of speeding up journeys at the Crossing now that Dart Charge is in place and drivers no longer need to stop at barriers to pay.
Highways Agency project director Nigel Gray said:
We’re making good progress on this important work. Protecting the tunnels from dangerous loads and oversized vehicles is vital for the safe and efficient operation of the whole Dartford Crossing. This new system will enable that task to be carried out much more efficiently than before and will make a real contribution to speeding up journeys - which is what Dart Charge is all about.
Since it launched on 30 November last year, Dart Charge has already helped to speed up journeys by removing the need to stop at a barrier to pay the Dartford Crossing charge. But to get the most benefit from the changes, there needs to be a new way of identifying and managing oversized vehicles and dangerous loads before they enter the tunnel – a job until now that was carried out at the payment barriers.
Construction of the new system began in January. New gantries have already been installed, which will house the equipment that will detect vehicle size and information about vehicles’ loads. Traffic lights, signals and barriers will be used to safely stop and turn around any vehicle that is not approaching the tunnel in the correct lane, while keeping disruption to other traffic to a minimum.
Connect Plus, the Highways Agency’s main service provider for the whole M25, is carrying out construction work associated with the project.
Connect Plus Services Transition Director, Erwan Huerre said:
We would like to thank road users for their patience whilst we continue to deliver these improvements at the Dartford Crossing. Whilst works are ongoing, it is important that drivers observe the reduced speed limits and drive carefully through the temporary road layout.
Despite the improvements, turning back any vehicle will cause some delay. The Highways Agency is working with partners in the haulage industry to make sure the new road layout is widely understood and drivers of dangerous loads and oversize vehicles get into the right lane in good time. The restrictions are also signed on approach to the tunnels, and the Highways Agency has published guidance for these drivers, which is available online. A new leaflet has been produced to help drivers understand what they need to do and is available on the GOV.UK website.
Advice to drivers of tall vehicles
If you are driving a tall vehicle northbound, you need to ensure you get in the correct lane as soon as possible after junction 2 to avoid being in the wrong lane. New signs will inform you which lane you should choose.
The northbound carriageway now divides just after the junction 1a exit slip road, with the two inside lanes (left-hand lanes) dedicated to the west tunnel and two outside lanes (right-hand lanes) dedicated to the east tunnel. Vehicles joining at junction 1a can only access the two inside lanes and use the west tunnel.
Tunnel height restrictions are 4.8m for the west tunnel and 5.0m for the east tunnel. Vehicles joining at junction 1a can only access the two inside lanes and use the west tunnel, and therefore vehicles over 4.8m in height are prohibited from using the slip road and should, if under 5m, use junction 1b.
Drivers who fail to use the correct lanes will be in violation of traffic regulations and could face enforcement action from the DVSA – potentially a fine.
Advice to drivers carrying hazardous materials
Arrangements for drivers with hazardous loads are essentially unchanged – drivers travelling northbound should continue to exit at junction 1a and follow signage to the vehicle marshalling area where they can be checked and escorted through the Crossing, if necessary. The safety system will identify, stop and turn around drivers who fail to do this.
Members of the public should contact the Highways Agency Information Line on 0300 123 5000.
Journalists should contact the Highways Agency press office on 0844 693 1448 and use the menu to speak to the most appropriate press officer.