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Plans to put up the cost of using the Dartford Crossing are being postponed until after April.
Tolls were due to go up to £2 by the end of this month, and £2.50 in April, but the Roads Minister has changed his mind after seeing the results of a three month consultation.
In a written ministerial statement, Mike Penning said a final decision on the future time of rises in charges would come with a full response to the consultation report early next year.
He said: "The Dartford Crossing is a vital piece of transport infrastructure that has brought huge economic benefits. The large number of responses to our consultation into increasing charges shows just how important the Crossing is for local people and road users.
"We have listened to concerns about introducing increases before Christmas and the Olympics and I can confirm that the charges will not rise this month and in April next year as originally planned.
"A final decision on timings and a full response to the consultation will be announced in due course, once we have had more time to fully consider all the important issues raised by the 1,300 plus responses."
Statement from Paul Carter. Leader of Kent County Council
"I welcome the fact that the toll charges will not be increased. However, it is still vital that the Department for Transport introduces free flow tolling as soon as possible.
"It is also important that the Department for Transport continues to look at delivering additional crossing capacity of the Thames and makes a firmer commitment to when this will happen. Congestion at the Dartford Crossing and its approaches costs the UK economy some £40m a year. Additional capacity will create employment, stimulate economic recovery, improve journey time reliability and increase network resilience. When tolls go up that money must be earmarked for an additional crossing."
James Willis is from the 'No To The Crossing Rip Off' group
Malcolm Bingham, Freight Transport Asociation’s Head of Road Network Management, said:
”Today’s news will alleviate some pressure for those thousands of hard-pressed commercial vehicle operators that use this key piece of infrastructure every day. The proposed 60 per cent hike is astronomical and comes at a time of massive fuel price pressure too. Such a hike is an especially bitter pill to swallow given that the bridge was paid off in 2003. It was after this point that the toll, which was needed to pay off the bridge's construction, should have been abandoned. Instead it was reinvented as a 'road charge' aimed at controlling congestion; although, clearly this hasn't worked.
“In our consultation we expressed the deep concerns of our members – who have no alternative but to use the crossing – about the abruptness of the proposed rises, which would equate to little more than a tax on business. It is highly unlikely that this ready source of income for the Treasury is going to be scrapped entirely, but we would suggest that any rise is focussed on cash charges rather than Dart-Tag users, who are more likely to be regular business motorists and commercial vehicle drivers. In the mean time, we will continue to impress on the Department for Transport why this ‘stay of execution’ should become a ‘reprieve’.”
Dartford MP, Gareth Johnson spoke to Heart