Man owed £150 in four-month Dart Charge battle

Ian Tidmas, who uses the crossing daily for work, claims he is being charged repeatedly for £10 top-ups, despite requesting a change to unlimited crossings under the Local Residents Discount Scheme (LRDS).

The amount deducted from his account has now exceeded £150, prompting Ian to seek refunds – but he has not received any money back despite fighting for a resolution for months. 

The issues first started to arise when responsibility for vehicle identification, payment processing, and account management was transferred to a new service provider named Conduent.

The online system has remained broken for Ian despite customer service taking multiple attempts to fix his account – calling a total of four times where claims he has sat in queues of up to 61 callers.

Ian told the News Shopper: “It’s ridiculous that we’re now in November, and it’s the same situation. Every time I speak to them, it’s just ‘Yeah, we’ve taken action. You’re now unlimited. We’ll get your refund sorted for you,’ and absolutely nothing happens every time.

“I’m always polite, so I appreciate it is not the person on the phones fault but I just feel as though I’ve actually got nowhere in the last four months.”

A National Highways spokesperson has acknowledged a technical issue affecting Ian’s LRDS account which was causing crossings made by LRDS vehicles to be charged at the standard rate despite being covered under the LRDS plan.

National Highways said that the issue is now to be resolved but Ian has recently explained that it appears that nothing has changed with his account, and it still does not list him as under the LRDS.

It still shows that there is a limited number of crossings (34 left) instead of the unlimited service he has signed up for and he still cannot add a vehicle to his account.

He says he has also not yet been contacted about his £150 refund for the unwanted payments.

Despite Ian’s requests for a managerial callback, he has never received a call and his suggestion of deleting the seemingly corrupt account and setting up a new one has been rejected.

Ian told the News Shopper: “I suggested to him on the phone ‘can’t you just cancel the account? We can’t make any changes to it, and neither can I. Should we just cancel it and start a new account?’ but he was like ‘Oh no we don’t need to do that’.

“Every time they reset it – within two days they still keep taking my money.

“The trouble is, I’m worried now that if I don’t keep that card on the account, they’re going to start issuing fines.

“I’d love to cancel and take the card off the account, but if I start getting fines for not paying it, I don’t know where I’d stand there.”

Ian also expressed frustration at his poor experiences on the Dartford Crossing and wider M25.

He said: “I don’t think it’s worth what we’re paying. Even with the whole of the M25 – the junctions are pretty poor, often over-congested nine times out of 10.

“I use the motorway virtually every single day without fail and they keep restricting the speeds. I think what they are doing in many cases is saying there’s an incident, reduce speed to 40 miles per hour.

“However, when you go out there, there isn’t an incident; they’re just slowing the traffic down, particularly on bad junctions.”

Ian is not the only road user to have faced issues with the new account system as other motorists have informed the News Shopper that they previously experienced difficulties.

Examples of this include trouble re-validating their cards, while others found that their account balances were reset, journeys were not recorded, and local resident permits were removed.

A National Highways spokesperson said: “Mr Tidmas was affected by a technical issue which caused inaccuracies to their Local Residents Discount Scheme (LRDS) Account.

“Due to this, crossings made by LRDS vehicles were inadvertently charged at the standard rate despite being covered under the LRDS plan.

“This issue has now been resolved and the account is operating as expected. We will now be contacting Mr Tidmas to arrange for the appropriate refunds to be made and answer any further queries they may have.

“National Highways recognises that since the introduction of the new payment system some customers have experienced problems with their accounts and longer wait times to contact Customer Services.

“We apologise for the inconvenience this has caused Mr Tidmas and the time that it has taken to resolve the matter.

“To address this we have increased staffing levels at our customer contact centre and have seen our average wait times for calls drop to 2 minutes – from a peak of 40 minutes.

“However, we accept the demand for email responses to queries remains high and we are working hard to address this.

“Whilst things are improving, we continue to review the Dart Charge performance daily to resolve issues and to improve the service for our customers.”

News Shopper | Dartford & Swanley