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Stop the toll: The story so far...

PUBLISHED: 10:15 23 April 2009 | UPDATED: 10:39 23 August 2010

GRILLED: Reporter Jason Goodyer with Secretary of State for Transport Geoff Hoon and Dr Howard Stoate.

GRILLED: Reporter Jason Goodyer with Secretary of State for Transport Geoff Hoon and Dr Howard Stoate.

ABOUT 1,500 readers have now pledged their support to the Kentish Times/Reporter Stop the Toll campaign. Since charges at the Dartford Crossing increased by 50 per cent last November, residents, business leaders, councillors and MPs have backed our cam

ABOUT 1,500 readers have now pledged their support to the Kentish Times/Reporter 'Stop the Toll' campaign.

Since charges at the Dartford Crossing increased by 50 per cent last November, residents, business leaders, councillors and MPs have backed our campaign.

All we ask is that tolls are scrapped at the crossing for one month to see the effect it has on traffic flow, congestion and pollution in the area. This week the report referred to by Transport Minister Lord Adonis suggested scrapping tolls on one side to ease congestion. Your support is now more important than ever as we campaign to get tolls axed both ways for a trial period to test the government's policy on congestion charging. During our campaign we revealed the charges generate £50 million a year, which is distributed to transport projects around the country with some also paid to operators Le Crossing. Money is not ring-fenced for the north Kent area. In the six months since the campaign launch, hundreds have returned coupons printed in the Dartford and Swanley Times/ Gravesend Reporter to our offices or signed our online petition.

Motoring organisations including the Freight Transport Association have backed our campaign and MPs across north Kent have demanded action to end the misery of the Dartford Crossing.

Just last month Geoff Hoon MP, Secretary of State for Transport, said he would consider suspending the tolls and urged readers to write to their MPs who could then discuss the issue further with him.

During a visit to Ebbsfleet International Station, he said: "It's an idea and I'm always willing to look at innovative options into how we can improve transport links. I will consider it. Perhaps, the best thing is to get Howard Stoate and the MPs to contact me about it and to work in taking it forwards."

The Dartford Crossing opened with a single road tunnel in 1963, with an adjacent second tunnel created in 1980. The QE11 Bridge, built alongside the tunnels, was opened in 1991 by The Queen.

Under the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) it was agreed that for a 20-year period revenue could be collected through toll charging, although it was noted this could be ended early once debts were repaid. This was deemed to have occurred in March 2002, but under the Road User Charging section of the Transport Act 2000, toll charging at the crossing was continued as a means of using road pricing to control traffic congestion and has remained ever since despite repeated calls for tolls to be axed.

To register your support please return the completed coupon to Unit 4, The Courtyard, 7A Manor Road, Gravesend, DA12 1AA or visit www.dartfordtimes.co.uk or www.gravesendreporter.co.uk.

michael.adkins@archant.co.uk

DARTFORD CROSSING: KEY FINDINGS

THIS week details of a report commissioned by the Department of Transport revealed several serious concerns about the existing Dartford crossing.

Research carried out by Parsons Brinckerhoff and WSP suggested further investigation of the three options detailed by Lord Adonis at the existing site, Swanscombe Peninsula or a new site east of Gravesend.

Serious concerns regarding the current Dartford crossing and short-term plans were also revealed as follows:

- The crossing is operating at or above its effective capacity for long periods.

- Typical daily flows of between 145,000 to 150,000 vehicles per day are placing a strain on the crossing and road systems in north Kent.

- More HGV traffic than ever before is being recorded using the crossing.

- There are no evening or morning peaks. Traffic flow and congestion is considered high throughout the day.

- The crossing has one of the UK's highest levels of delay, affecting 40 to 45 per cent of users.

- The injury accident rate for the network surrounding and including the crossing is twice the national average.

- These are due to a complex road system and junctions, merging and weaving of traffic, breakdown and physical capacity of the northbound tunnels.

- The crossing acts as a bottle-neck for north Kent.

- The situation is expected to 'worsen significantly' due to expansion of Thames Gateway and Port of Dover.

- Short-term proposals include, changes to the Plaza and signage and promotion of Dart-Tag. Or one-way tolling to speed up traffic flow.

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