Car drivers will see costs rise from £1.50 to £2

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From today drivers using the Dartford Crossing will be forced to pay even more to use the hellish road network.

Motorists will see charges rise from £1.50 to £2 for a car, from £2 to £2.50 for lorries and £3.70 to £5 for heavy goods vehicles on Sunday.

Further increases will be implemented in 2014.

The Government says the controversial move will help pay for free-flowing tolls.

But the introduction of this system, similar to London’s electronic congestion charging and due to be brought in this year, has been pushed back until 2014.

Dartford MP Gareth Johnson, Kent County Council and Dartford Borough Council have raised concerns over the delay, warning that severe congestion at the crossing – expected to decrease through the use of free-flowing tolls – costs the UK economy £40 million every year through disrupted business.

Ironically, the new charges come ahead of the 10th anniversary of when the bill for the crossing’s construction was paid off.

When the first tunnel was built in 1969, the then-Government promised to scrap tolls when enough money had been raised to pay off the costs, which was thought to be in 2003.

But this has never happened under either the Labour government or coalition and drivers have continued to pay.

Tory backbencher Mr Johnson has been pushing for the charges to be abolished.

“I remain opposed to the charge increase and I think the tolls should have been scrapped a long time ago,” he said.

Kent County Council cabinet member for transport, Cllr Bryan Sweetland, said he was concerned about tolls being increased without any improvements to the traffic system.

He said he was even more worried about the delay in free-flow tolling.

“I would urge the Department for Transport to do all they can to improve on the autumn 2014 date,” he said.

“Congestion at the Dartford Crossing and its approaches is now a serious hindrance to encouraging economic growth in north Kent.”

The Government is currently looking at long term solutions to tackle problems at Dartford, including the development of a Third Thames crossing.

Cllr Sweetland said: “The Government has made a firm commitment to look at the longer term capacity of the crossing and I welcome that.

“Their own statistics show the crossing was at over capacity for more than two thirds of the year.

“The benefits of an additional Thames crossing would not only help alleviate the severe congestion currently faced by road users, it would also act as a catalyst to unlock much needed investment opportunities in the Thames Gateway region and help boost business and employment prospects in Dartford, Swanley and Gravesend.

“However, to put this into perspective, as things stand at the moment, my granddaughter who has just started nursery school, is likely to be starting university before any additional crossing is built.”

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