A spokesperson for the Dartford Crossing Consortium has confirmed that the bridge could be closed for anything up to 12 WEEKS after lightning struck the main structure earlier this evening. Residents all over Essex and Kent have been experiencing serious thunderstorms throughout Sunday, and the lightning strike in question happened shortly after 9.30pm. While the bridge itself appears to have escaped any actual damage, the billing system that recognises car number plates and applies the correct toll charge has been seriously damaged by the lightning – the DCC has confirmed that motorists could be charged 25p instead of £2.50, with some account holders actually receiving a CREDIT of £250 when they pass across the Dartford Bridge.
Jeremy Gerald, spokesperson for the DCC, said that staff are currently working ‘flat out’ to try and fix the issue. He said: ‘The lightning struck one of our seven billing towers that are in place to ensure that every motorist is charged the correct amount, and the large concentration of electrical energy hit the server that contains the Toll Differentiation Spreadsheet. While the cells containing car data should normally read £2.50 or £1.67, the damage has meant that the sheet is now full of random formulas and various glitches – motorists will literally be playing a lottery every time they drive through and there will be some big winners and big losers.’
Ed Crutchington contacted Southend News Network shortly after going across the Dartford Bridge at 9.35pm this evening. He said: ‘I got my wife to log in to my Dartford Crossing account once we had arrived back in Essex through her smartphone, and I noticed that my balance was £25,000 in credit. As far as I am aware, that crossing credit is now legally mine, and although I won’t be able to get a refund I should now have enough in the account to spend the rest of my life driving between Essex and Kent.’
Naomi Wright also posted about the chaos on the Southend News Network Facebook page. She said: ‘I tried to use my debit card in Tesco this evening, but it was declined and I had no idea why. As a precaution, I logged into my Dartford Crossing account and noticed that £250,000 had been taken with the label ‘Dartford Crossing Charge.’ This money was in my account over the weekend as we are completing a mortgage home purchase on Monday, but now it looks like I will lose my dream home.’
An email from the DCC confirmed that anyone who has been incorrectly charged will receive a full refund within 10-12 working weeks.