In the Budget statement last week, chancellor Alastair Darling confirmed Labour’s intention to sell off the Dartford-Thurrock crossing.
Prospective Conservative MP Jackie Doyle-Price has made clear her opposition to the sell-off and renewed calls for the tolls to be scrapped. Historically, the tolls were levied to meet the costs of building the crossings with the promise that they would end once the costs had been met. The tolls have however continued and increased, with Labour justifying the move on the basis that the tolls are a congestion charge. Jackie said,
“Privatising the crossing means that the tolls will continue forever. This offers a poor deal to all road users and in particular to residents of Thurrock.
First Labour argued that the tolls were a congestion charge. Yet the tolls themselves are a cause of congestion on Thurrock’s roads. It surely cannot be argued that the tolls are a congestion charge when the monies raised won’t even go to the taxpayer.
Then they gave residents of Thurrock and Dartford a discounted rate for using the crossing. Don’t be fooled into thinking this was generous. Local users account for less than 3% of all crossings and in any case the introduction of the discount was matched by the withdrawal of a transport grant worth £1/2m a year. This money was used by Thurrock council to support local transport services and roads to the benefit of all residents, not just the crossing users.
Now they are selling off the crossing – so the toll revenue wont even go to public funds – it will go straight onto the pocket of whoever buys it.
We know the public finances are a mess, but flogging off the crossing surely cannot be the answer.
This was not the deal. We were promised that the tolls would be lifted. Now we find that they are to continue so that the Government can make a quick buck at the cost of permanent charges for users and continued congestion for local road users. I will continue to fight so that both the tolls and the sell are dropped.”
Carl Morris Labour’s PPC for Thurrock said:–
“An intention to sell this crossing is one thing, but I believe it will never happen.
“What this has flushed out is the Tories deep resentment of Labour’s hard won local discount which has widespread popular support and saves regular users of the bridge up to £7.30 each week.
“The Tories don’t like our local people’s discount and would scrap it to give Thurrock Council another £½Million. But with this Tory Council’s track record nobody in their right mind would give this council any more money to be squandered on consultants.
“The Conservative Party has made no commitment to stop the sale of the bridge or scrap the tolls. So if we have a Tory Government, the sale would proceed, the tolls would remain but its likely our local discount would be scrapped.
“I’m determined to defend the interests in local people who ever forms the next government to protect the local discount”.
Lib-Dem PPC Carys Davis said: “Residents on both sides of the water are rightly disgusted that the Labour goverment have broken their promise.
“The crossing should have been free to use once costs had been paid. Instead, there’s a risk of toll hikes from the buyers.
“My priority will be to ensure local people still benefit from the Local Resident Scheme – this must be protected at all costs.
“It’s grossly unfair if local people end up paying the price of privatisation.