New animations have been released today (Friday 27 March) by the Highways Agency showing how the new safety system will operate at the Dartford Crossing.
The videos show how the system that is due to be introduced on the northbound carriageway in May will identify and stop oversized vehicles or those carrying dangerous goods from entering the tunnels.
They also provide clear advice to drivers of these vehicles about getting in the correct lane in plenty of time which will help minimise the number of times vehicles need to be stopped and turned around.
The new system 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:
Safety is a top priority for the Highways Agency. The old payment barriers used to provide us with a way to prevent oversized or dangerous goods vehicles from entering the Dartford tunnels but the introduction of Dart Charge required a new solution. This video shows how the new system will provide the protection needed while keeping disruption to a minimum.
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. Traffic lights, barriers and electronic message signs 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.
The system has already been extensively tested at a disused airfield and further on road tests will take place before it is introduced in May.
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 GOV.UK.
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. New signs now inform you which lane you must 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 (height restriction 4.8m) and two outside lanes (right-hand lanes) dedicated to the east tunnel (height restriction 5.0m). Vehicles joining at junction 1a can only access the two inside lanes and use the west tunnel.
Drivers who fail to use the correct lanes will be in violation of traffic regulations and could receive a fine or points on their driving licence. Advice to drivers carrying hazardous materials
When travelling northbound drivers of hazardous loads must continue to exit at junction 1a and follow signs to the vehicle marshalling area where they will be checked and escorted through the Crossing, if necessary. The safety system will identify, stop and turn around drivers who fail to do this and they could receive a fine or points on their driving licence
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.