Latest accounts for Dartford-Thurrock River Crossing Charging Scheme show that motorists paid £209m to use the M25 to cross the Thames to the east of London during the year ended 31st March 2020.
At the same time, total expenditure for the year ended 31 March 2020 amounted to £102.2m, giving the Department for Transport a clear £106.8m profit – a tidy 50% margin.
Costs included £22m for Connect Plus, Highways England’s managing agent contractor, and £25m to Emovis, the Italian company that operates the online toll collections.
The accounts also show a £185,000 cost alongside the entry “EU tunnel directive on safety”, which presumably will not be there next year. In the previous year compliance with the EU directive had added £1.8m to the costs of the operation.
The Dartford-Thurrock River Crossing consists of two tunnels and the Queen Elizabeth II cable-stayed bridge between Dartford in Kent and Thurrock in Essex. The first tunnel was built in 1963, the second in 1980 and the bridge was opened in 1991.
An early private finance initiative (PFI) concession, enacted by the Dartford-Thurrock Crossing Act 1988, transferred the existing debt from the tunnels to the private sector who retained toll revenue to pay off the existing debt and the debt incurred by building the new bridge. Tolls were set by the Department for Transport in conjunction with the concessionaire, Trafalgar House (now Skanska). The concession was for a period of 20 years from 31st July 1988 but all financial commitments had been met by 31st March 2002 and so the crossing returned to the public sector.
It currently costs £2.50 to cross for motor cars, £3 for pick-up trucks, vans and lorries with two axles, and £6 for larger vehicles with more than two axles, although discounts are offered to those that set up an account (£2 for cars, £5.19 for HGVs).