Motorists have criticised a "nightmare" payment system and bemoaned 11-hour waits to settle basic debts after using the Dartford Crossing.

Drivers yesterday (July 31) said it was "impossible" to pay the Dart Charge, the fee for using the bridge, under a new operating system brought in last Friday (July 28).

Conduent is the new provider responsible for vehicle identification, payment processing and account management for users of the bridge over the Thames.

Scores have compained since Friday, bemoaning 11-hour waits, unresponsive phone lines and a complete inability to make payments.

Vivian Callaghan, 67, who lives in Romford, said it had been a "nightmare" trying to get through via phone and was anxious to pay after making a trip to Bognor Regis in West Sussex to see her grandchildren.

"It's an absolute nightmare," she said. "There must be thousands of people sweating like I am thinking they're going to get a fine."

RELATED NEWS: Dartford Crossing Dart Charge payments change from today

Vivian said she called Dart Charge last night to make two payments, but was directed to an system that did not recognise her car's registration number.

She said she tried everything, including different accents such as Cockney, Scottish and American to get the machine to understand, but to no avail.

"We're retired, we're lucky - what about people who work or haven't got the time to spend so long trying to pay it?"

Vivian added that the Dart Charge offered outdated advice, telling her to go to Hillview Food and Wine in Hornchurch, only to find the recommended payment machine was removed two years ago.

Paul Read, who has lived off North Street in Romford for 13 years, said he tried to update his payment details yesterday morning and waited a staggering 11 hours and 17 minutes.

"The whole system crashed - you can't get in touch with anyone," he said. "First I thought it was 11 minutes, then I looked and it was 11 hours."

Paul said a lack of foresight from Dart Charge management was a polite way to put it and predicted thousands more would be affected.

"Now people are concerned they are going to get their penalty charges because they can’t pay.

"You've got 60,000 cars crossing everyday, by Monday you're gonna have at least 200,000 people trying to get through."

Barbara Abbot from Essex said she got up early yesterday since she was afraid of being fined £100 for failing to pay just £5.

"It's just ridiculous," she said. "I've been waiting since 7am this morning to get onto the website - it's like buying concert tickets."

Barbara added that customers were put in an impossible predicament, unable to go into a shop and pay or settle a debt by phone due to hundreds of queuing people.

"It's not on because through no fault of my own I've been trying to pay all day," she said.

"I just wanted to go for a walk in Kent - I wish I hadn't now."

Dart Charge, National Highways and Conduent were approached for comment.