On this day in history : 18th November 1963 – The opening of the Dartford Tunnel, running under the River Thames between Dartford in Kent and Thurrock in Essex….
Giving drivers a means of avoiding driving through London the crossing was first proposed in 1924 by the Ministry of Transport…. Work began in 1936 but had to be delayed due to World War 2 – it did not resume again until 1959….
The dual lane tunnel had a total project cost of around £13 million (equivalent to approximately £260 million in today’s terms) and was initially used by some 12,000 vehicles per day….paying a toll of 2 shillings and sixpence (12.5p) each time….
By 1970 it was carrying over 8 million vehicles per year and it was announced that a second tunnel would be built – along with a London orbital road, or the M25 as we know it…. The new tunnel was due to open in 1976 but was set back because of lack of funds – it eventually opened in May 1980…. Each tunnel could now manage one direction of traffic and between them could handle 65,000 vehicles per day…. However, on completion of the M25 in 1986 demand grew to 70,000 per day….
So, in 1988 construction of the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge commenced and was opened by Her Majesty the Queen on the 30th of October 1991 – the total cost of the new bridge being £120 million (equivalent today approx. £245 million)….
The Dartford Crossing is one of the busiest road sections in the UK – it is a major bypass of Greater London…. On average more than 130,000 vehicles use the tunnels and bridge each day…. In 2014, in a bid to ease congestion, the toll booths were removed and a cashless payment system introduced, using automatic number plate recognition….
Motorists have to pay on-line or by telephone every time they use the crossing between 6am and 10pm – and have to pay by midnight the day after crossing – or receive a hefty fine (£70 reduced to £35 if paid within 14 days)…. It is possible to have an account if using frequently, which lowers the cost….but typically it costs £2.50 for a car (£2.00 with an account) and £6.00 for a lorry (£5.19 with an account) – motorbikes cross for free…. In 2017 the Government made an eye watering £92 million from Dartford Crossing fines….