Avoid road tolls and charges


There are now 37.5 million vehicles registered for use on UK roads. 

According to government statistics, a whopping 900,000 of those were registered for the first time this year - the highest figures to date. 

As this number increases, governments across the UK and Europe have introduced a number of charges in a bid to get motorists to use quieter routes and to help ease congestion.

What are toll roads?

In short, a toll road is any stretch of road, bridge or motorway that you have to pay to use. They were first introduced as a way of creating alternative routes in particularly congested areas of the country, so motorists could choose to pay for a quicker way to get to their destination.

Why do you have to pay for a toll road? 

The money you hand over will be used for the upkeep and maintenance of the road. 

Where are toll roads in the UK? 

The M6 Toll Road is the UK’s first major toll road, alleviating traffic in the West Midlands area since 2002.

As well as this, there are numerous toll charges on bridges and A Roads across Britain, including the Dartford Crossing, the Severn Bridge, the Humber Bridge and the Tyne Tunnels.

How much do I have to pay at a toll?

The price you will have to pay will be dependent on the road or crossing, as well as the vehicle you are driving in. Heavy goods vehicles will be cost more than regular cars. 

Do I have to pay with cash at a toll road?

No, you can usually pay with card, cash or with a toll tag. Payment with a tag will usually mean your fare is reduced, but there is also a monthly payment for hiring one for your vehicle, so it is only worth your while if you are going to be using the route regularly.

A major variant to this rule is the way you have to pay to use the Dartford Crossing. Instead of paying at the barriers, you are now required to pay in advance or by midnight the following day. This can be done online, over the phone or by post.

How can I avoid paying at a toll road?

To avoid paying the charges, you should either find a different route or use public transport. In the case of the M6 Toll, the alternatives are either to use the regular M6 or the nearby A Roads. However, as these are all liable to peak time congestion, the choice is often pay up or hold-up. Much the same applies for the Severn Bridge crossing - motorists heading from England into Wales should take a detour through Gloucester if they wish to avoid the toll. 

For other tolls, Satellite Navigation systems include an option to avoid toll roads, which will make it easier to find an alternative route. 

What is congestion charge?

Different to a toll road, a congestion charge is a set daily limit that a commuter must pay when driving in a specific area.

Which UK cities have congestion charges?

There are two cities which have congestion charges in the UK. The most well-known is London, where cars must pay £11.50 per day. This is applicable between 7:00am and 6:00pm, Monday to Friday.

As well as this, Durham has a Road User Charge Zone on the Durham peninsula. However, this is £2.00 per day, and applicable 10.00-4.00pm, Monday-Saturday.

How do you pay a congestion charge?

In London, you can pay online using Auto Pay, which works via Direct Debit, Credit or Debit card, or online either in advance or by midnight the following day. 

In Durham, you can pay in person at the Parking Shop, or call them on 0191 384 6633.

Are there any exemptions to the congestion charge?

London has number of exemptions and reductions to the congestion charge. 

The Ultra Low Emissions Discount (ULED)

This was introduced in July 2013 and provides a single 100% discount on the Congestion Charge for all electric vehicles and for ultra-low emission cars and vans.

To qualify for the ULED, cars or vans should not exceed 3.5 tonnes of gross vehicle weight. They should emit 75g/km or less of CO2 and should meet the Euro 5 standard for air quality. 

Plug-in hybrid cars and vans have additional electric range and top speed criteria that they have to meet in order to qualify.

Blue Badge Holders

Blue Badge holders in the European Economic Area are also eligible to register for a 100% discount even if they don't own a vehicle or drive. You can register up to two vehicles that you would normally use to travel within the Congestion Charge zone - this could be your own vehicle or one you travel in. You can apply for a blue badge here.