Fury over the for­eign truck­ers who dodged £1m in cross­ing tolls

Daily Express - - News - By Giles Sheldrick Chief Re­porter

FOR­EIGN truck­ers have slipped out of the coun­try ow­ing al­most £1mil­lion in un­paid tolls for us­ing the Dart­ford Cross­ing, fig­ures show.

Some 154,502 trucks reg­is­tered over­seas failed to pay the £6 charge in 2018, rack­ing up a bill of £927,012.

The fig­ures, which were ob­tained us­ing Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion laws, last night prompted de­mands that en­force­ment be stepped up.

Richard Bur­nett, chief ex­ec­u­tive of The Road Haulage As­so­ci­a­tion, said: “UK truck­ers have no choice but to pay for­eign tolls – get­ting the money from a for­eign op­er­a­tor once they have re­turned home is al­most im­pos­si­ble.”

Kent county coun­cil­lor Ian Chit­ten­den said: “The con­tin­ued fail­ure to col­lect tolls from for­eign reg­is­tered ve­hi­cles is get­ting ridicu­lous. A new sys­tem should be in­tro­duced as quickly as pos­si­ble.”

Op­por­tu­ni­ties

The Dart­ford Cross­ing over the River Thames han­dles around 130,000 ve­hi­cles every day.

Rather than pay­ing cash at toll booths, a free-flow sys­tem uses au­to­matic num­ber plate recog­ni­tion with users obliged to pay the Dart Charge in ad­vance or by mid­night the day af­ter us­ing the cross­ing.

Colin Grant, 38, of Brom­ley, south­east Lon­don, said: “I have to use the cross­ing every day to get to work and if I don’t pay I’m chased for pay­ment.

“Me and thou­sands of other peo­ple who have no choice but to use the cross­ing are pick­ing up the bill for these peo­ple who don’t bother pay­ing.”

Bosses at High­ways Eng­land said 80 per cent of for­eign truck­ers did pay the charge, com­pared with 95 per cent of UK-based lor­ries.

The De­part­ment for Trans­port said charges at the Dart­ford Cross­ing would not be scrapped, un­like those on the Sev­ern Bridge cross­ings into Wales.

A spokesman said: “Abol­ish­ing tolls on the Sev­ern Bridge was a man­i­festo com­mit­ment of the Gov­ern­ment which is be­ing im­ple­mented. It will make a huge dif­fer­ence to mo­torists and drive new job and busi­ness op­por­tu­ni­ties in Wales and the South-west.

“The charge at Dart­ford is fun­da­men­tally dif­fer­ent and is cru­cial for man­ag­ing traf­fic and jour­ney times for road users across south-east Eng­land.”

High­ways Eng­land chases non-pay­ing for­eign­ers us­ing a Euro­pean debt col­lec­tion agency, with those who fail to pay up fac­ing a £70 fine.

Fig­ures show that be­tween 2014 and 2017 around 1.2 mil­lion for­eign driv­ers failed to pay the Dart Charge, ow­ing an es­ti­mated £4mil­lion.

Last month west­bound tolls to cross the Sev­ern bridges into Wales were scrapped af­ter 52 years.

The re­moval of the charges – which amounted to £5.60 for a car – on the M4 and M48 bridges be­tween south-west Eng­land and Wales, could save some driv­ers up to £1,400 a year.

Twenty per cent of for­eign truck­ers us­ing the Dart­ford Cross­ing fail to pay the toll

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