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HELP US END TOLL MISERY

PUBLISHED: 12:47 20 November 2008 | UPDATED: 10:16 23 August 2010

AB2935-01	
06-05-06	
Dartford	
Dartford toll tunnel
Fatal accident in the tunnel

AB2935-01 06-05-06 Dartford Dartford toll tunnel Fatal accident in the tunnel

TODAY the Kentish Times launches a campaign to scrap controversial charges at the Dartford Crossing. Readers can support the campaign by calling for a one-month suspension of charges to test the government s policy on congestion charging. The Dartford c

TODAY the Kentish Times launches a campaign to scrap controversial charges at the Dartford Crossing.

Readers can support the campaign by calling for a one-month suspension of charges to test the government's policy on congestion charging.

The Dartford crossing takes in nearly £200,000 PER DAY and motorists and transport groups have reacted bitterly to increases of up to 50 per cent this week.

We are urging motorists, business professionals and local authority bosses to register their support by completing the coupon in this week'spaper or joining our online petition.

Rises caused chaos at the toll booths on Monday morning, creating tailbacks as drivers were caught out by the new charges, which saw a standard car rate go from £1 to £1.50 each way. Charges for light goods vehicles and HGVs have increased.

Dartford council leader Jeremy Kite backed the campaign despite residents in his borough receiving discounted toll crossings following pressure from Dartford MP Dr Howard Stoate.

Mr Kite fumed: "I 100 per cent back this Kentish Times campaign, the toll charges are a scam of the highest order. It makes little sense.

"It is like a Dick Turpin tax, they are taking money from motorists, but they are not giving them any other options. But there are a lot of options open to us for the government to look into.

"I would welcome a pilot scheme where the toll crossing was abolished for a time, but during that time a number of different options should be trialled, to see the impact it would have on congestion."

His counterpart in Gravesham, Mike Snelling, said: "I will join any campaign that is intent on getting rid of the tolls at Dartford. The present system is of course beneficial to Dartford, but is no good for the residents of Gravesham.

"But what I see as the real issue here, is the fact that the cost of the crossing has now been paid for, and there is no argument for having the toll charge.

"Yes that sum of money that is generated would have to come from somewhere, but that would always be the case.

"We should drop them for a trial period, this is the only one way of proving who is right and what effect it would have."

The Freight Transport Association described the government's congestion charging policy as "ridiculous"

A spokeswoman for the FTA said: "Put simply, road users have been conned. The original promise was that once construction costs for building the crossing were recouped, the tolls would be withdrawn.

"We support suspending the charges. The government's idea that this is a congestion charge is ridiculous - it creates congestion and more pollution.

"It makes no sense to target transportation companies who help keep the economy going when we are entering a recession."

UK Independence Party MEP for the south east, Nigel Farage, said the EU Commission is working towards a directive for road pricing that would see motorists pay on mileage and added his support to our campaign.

He told the Kentish Times: "Road pricing is a monster issue and charges at the Dartford crossing are inescapably linked to that.

"To add insult to injury, not only have they gone against a promise to abolish the tolls, they have kicked us in the b*lls with a fifty per cent increase."

Len Valsler, owner of Gravesend-based haulage company LV Transport is also furious about the new scheme that enables free use of the crossing from 10pm until 6am.

He said: "It's an insult to people's intelligence and scrapping night time charges is useless if you are on timed deliveries like we are."

The DfT said that, by law, once the crossing's £15 million running costs were paid the remaining £55 million revenue has to be spent on transport projects, including widening schemes on roads feeding the crossing such as the A282 and M25.

The Highways Agency said that since July there have been 4,200 applications from Dartford residents for a discount scheme secured by Dartford MP Howard Stoate, entitling 50 free crossings for £10 and 20p thereafter.

There has also been a six-fold increase in those taking up the Dart-tag system where users pay £1.

Gravesham MP, Adam Holloway and parliamentary candidate for Dartford, Gareth Johnson, have both pushed for a trial suspension of charges. Mr Holloway said: "Ideally I would like to see the abolition of the toll charge, but if it was to go, it would leave an awful lot of money to get from somewhere. The congestion at the crossing needs addressing."

To support our campaign return the completed coupon to Unit 4, The Courtyard, 7A Manor Road, Gravesend, DA12 1AA or visit

www.dartfordtimes.co.uk.

Read Melody Foreman in the columnists link

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