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Bosses at the Dartford crossing have promised to set up an urgent investigation after it was discovered that drivers are able to avoid paying the £2.50 toll in either direction by REVERSING past the number plate recognition cameras – extra officers are patrolling the area this morning to deter drivers from carrying out this ‘reckless’ manoeuvre in an attempt to save money.
Basildon resident Colin Thrifton contacted Southend News Network yesterday to claim that he had discovered a ‘foolproof’ way to get past the hi-tech ANPR cameras, and we have seen a screenshot of his Dartford Crossing account website page that backs up his story. He said: ‘When the cameras were first introduced a few months ago in place of the fixed toll booths, I instantly wondered what would happen if I drove across the bridge entirely in reverse. I put this theory to the test a couple of weeks ago (naturally I had my wife in the car as an extra pair of eyes for safety), and sure enough my car’s details weren’t picked up by the computer-controlled cameras. 24 hours later I made the return journey, and although the tunnel was a little bit more difficult in reverse gear we still managed it – once again my account wasn’t charged for the crossing.’
However, shortly after Mr Thrifton posted about the ‘glitch’ on his Facebook and Twitter accounts, his comments were shared thousands of times – this led to a number of dangerous traffic situations developing over the course of Monday where around £100,000 in toll fees were estimated to have been evaded by other motorists reversing through the tunnel and across the bridge. At one stage towards the end of the morning, an articulated lorry got stuck halfway through the left-hand tunnel when he managed to wedge both himself and the police escort car between the walls – a separate investigation has already been launched about how this dangerous load was able to enter the tunnel backwards.
According to an expert in number plate recognition technology, who doesn’t want to be named, the glitch is happening because most cars have white plates on the front and yellow ones on the rear, and the software that has been used cannot read the wrong colours heading in an ‘unexpected’ direction. This is the latest incident in a long line of embarrassing failures for the crossing’s operators – recently it was discovered that the cameras were unable to read number plates that have been written in the Comic Sans and Wingdings fonts.
A spokesperson for the Dartford Crossing Management Conglomeration said: ‘We must remind all motorists that the bridge and the tunnel were originally designed to be used in a forward driving direction. We admit that a small number of motorists are avoiding the fees by driving across backwards, but there are a number of reasons why this is unsafe – especially seeing that a range of vehicles seem to struggle getting above 5 mph in reverse gear. From a financial point of view, this is an act of fraud, and every lost toll means that we move further and further away from our objective of making the crossings free of charge when they are fully paid for. All motorists will be charged in the end, and we have just employed a team of 30 analysts to check all video footage since the cameras were introduced.’
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