THE LEADER of Thurrock Council has reacted angrily to the news the government has confirmed the Thames crossing tolls will be going up on October 7th.
Cllr John Kent, said: “I have never made a secret of my opposition to the tolls themselves, let along increasing them, and now the government has announced it will be going ahead with its plans.
“Before detailing why I think this is a bad idea, I want to make an appeal to every single Thurrock motorist who uses the crossing – apply for your discount now.
“Next month every other car driver will be handing over £2 each trip, you need only fork out 20p. Apply now, please.”
He added: “In Thurrock we are starting on a journey of regeneration, we are aiming to bring thousands of new jobs to our borough, yet we are supposed to do this while the cost of using the crossing rockets – up 50p in October and a total of £1 later.
“That’s not encouraging regeneration, growth and business, but it is making the council’s job of persuading businesses to come here more difficult than it needs to be.”
Cllr Kent said: “Last week I was disappointed the government was putting a four-year timescale on crossing improvements in infrastructure and technology, without a start date.
“Now it is made worse still. Not only do we have to wait for the improvements and free-flow tolling, but we have to pay extra for the privilege as well.
“Mr Penning’s announcement on Tuesday confirms we will have to wait at least two years for the free-flow technology alone and I have major doubts on the government’s ability to meet that deadline.”
Details of charges
From 06:00 BST, drivers of cars and 2 axle goods vehicles will pay 50p more to use the Dartford-Thurrock crossing.
Heavy goods vehicles will cost an extra £1.30, while the crossing will remain free for motorcyclists.
Discounts will continue for local residents and DART-Tag account holders who pay in advance.
Any vehicle using the crossing between 22:00 and 06:00 will continue to do so for free.
Cash payments at the crossing will increase from £1.50 to £2.00 for cars, from £2.00 to £2.50 for 2 axle goods vehicles, and from £3.70 to £5.00 for heavy goods vehicles.
Electronic charging, which means vehicles will not have to stop, will be introduced in 2014, when the charge for cars will rise to £2.50. Drivers of 2 axle goods vehicles will also have to pay £3.00, and £6.00 for heavy goods vehicles.
Roads minister Mike Penning said: “The Dartford-Thurrock River Crossing is a vital piece of transport infrastructure, but upgrades need to be made. To do that, we need to start planning now for the future.
“That’s why we are introducing free-flow charging by the autumn 2014 and currently analysing the options for a new crossing in the Lower Thames area.
“We have listened carefully to what people have said, which is why charges that were meant to be implemented towards the end of last year have been delayed until now.”
Mr Penning said the money raised would help “prioritise investment for much needed improvements to increase capacity and reduce journey times”.