Traffic down by millions but council boss wants free flow tolls at Dartford Crossing
Date posted: 24-08-2012
THE NUMBER of drivers using the Dartford Crossing has fallen at a time when calls have been made for a new crossing to combat congestion.
Figures from the Highways Agency show that in 2005-06, nearly 54.5 million vehicles used the bridge and tunnels between Kent and Essex.
The number has steadily dropped to 50.9 million in 2010-11.
The AA has backed plans for a new crossing but opponents have said the case has not been proved.
Paul Watters, from the AA, said the existing road was still handling much more traffic than it was meant to.
He said: “Even though the traffic’s down we saw 257 days in 2010 when the crossing was running over capacity – it was carrying more than it was designed for.
“That’s what causes the problem – it causes huge congestion and we have got to do something about it.”
The cost for cars to use the crossing is due to rise from £1.50 to £2 in October.
This will increase to £2.50 in 2014 when the barriers are removed and number plate recognition technology will be used instead of traditional toll booths.
Leader of Thurrock Council, Cllr John Kent, has reiterated his call for the government in introduce free-flow tolls at the Thames crossing sooner rather than later.
He said: “It seems that people using the crossing have been facing increasing delays over the past few weeks – the Highways Agency has even been forced to lift the tolls totally a couple of times.
“I called for the agency and the government to lift the tolls throughout the Olympic Games and I think the games may have been part of the problem as drivers tried to avoid the games lanes in East London and Greenwich. I fear it might happen again during the Paralympics too.
“However we are now in the middle of the summer holidays. What will it be like when the weather properly closes in and everyone is back at work? We know exactly what it will be like – gridlock on a regular if not daily basis.
“The government should learn from this summer’s events. All it takes is an accident or even a breakdown on the crossing, the A13 or the A2 and everything backs right up for miles either side of the crossing and into our towns and villages.
“They admit there’s a problem, just that they can’t get round to sorting it out until at least late 2014. In the meanwhile our drivers and our businesses are suffering.”