Highways England has awarded the first of its multi-package contracts for its second-generation free-flow charging service to Conduent and Emovis, who will primarily operate the existing Dartford Crossing free-flow charging scheme, Dart Charge.
The first two core contracts (a third is yet to be announced) are worth up to a combined £270m over the course of 10 and a half years service.
Conduent’s contract is for road user charging services, and covers the day to day operation of the free-flow charging service, detecting and matching vehicle and customer records, managing accounts and processing payments.
Emovis will be responsible for UK enforcement services. This package includes the management of enforcement activities for vehicles registered in the UK, such as issuing and handling penalty charge notices and payment processing.
The third contract, for which the process of finding a vendor has yet to be started, will be for non-UK enforcement services. This package includes the management of enforcement activities for vehicles registered outside of the UK, such as issuing and handling penalty charge notices and payment processing. Highways England intends to proceed to competition for this package later this year.
Non-UK enforcement services to support the second-generation service are set to be awarded in March 2022 following a competitive tender process.
Highways England (then Highways Agency) introduced the Dartford free-flow charging scheme in 2014 – the first time such a system had been deployed on the strategic road network in England. Dart Charge removed the congestion caused by drivers having to stop at a barrier to pay their crossing charge, and has given road users using the crossing more choice about how and when they pay. Dart Charge customers can currently pay the road user charge online, by phone, and at many retail outlets, prior to or up to the day after using the crossing.
The Dartford-Thurrock Crossing, which consists of two tunnels and the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge, is used by approximately 165,000 vehicles per day, making it one of the busiest road routes in Britain. Following an 18-month deployment period, Conduent will provide improved customer self-service capabilities, state-of-the art roadside equipment and the latest generation of license plate recognition technology. Enhanced self-service options will improve the customer experience by facilitating payments for pre-paid and pay-as-you-go customers.
The free-flow solution will also maintain the existing traffic safety and environmental benefits at the crossing, helping to reduce vehicle congestion and emissions. With a workforce based in Leeds, the company will provide account management, payment processing and customer support services including a call center and website.
The contract marks a significant expansion for Conduent’s road usage charging business in the UK and Europe. “This award demonstrates our commitment to our global strategy for growth while continuing to provide effective, end-to-end solutions for our clients,” said Mark Brewer, group president, Transportation Solutions at Conduent. “Building on our strong UK and European presence and capabilities, we are dedicated to delivering a successful program for Highways England and its customers.”
Christian Barrientos, chief executive officer of Emovis, commented: “The awarding of this contract to Emovis reflects the administration’s confidence on our expert ability to develop robust solutions designed with the end user in mind. Ensuring a high quality and standard of service for our clients and their customers, underpinned by our expert operational teams. We are pleased to have been selected to keep managing the scheme for Dartford Crossing, a vital component for the success of every free flow charging operation. We are also delighted to continue our longstanding relationship with Highways England”.