THE GOVERNMENT is being urged to think again about raising Thames crossing tolls at the same time doing away with the barriers on the southern side of the river.
Thurrock Council Leader, Cllr John Kent, has written to Secretary of State for Transport Patrick McLoughlin asking for the proposed rise to at least be postponed if not scrapped altogether – and he is calling on Thurrock MP Jackie Doyle-Price for her support too.
Cllr Kent said: “The current full car fare for the crossing is £2 and the government wants to put that up to £2.50 as well as introducing the free-flow toll system is coming autumn.
“Although I continue to urge all local residents to sign up for the crossing discount and for the government to extend that to Thurrock-based business too, I fear the rise plus the plans for the crossing will lead to confusion and chaos.”
He said: “Putting the price up at the same time as changing the system is daft enough, but they’re planning on putting the tolls up at the same time as imposing a 20 miles an hour speed limit while the toll booths and barriers are being demolished.
“And, as I understand things, while traffic crossing the bridge into Kent will have few problems – unless there’s a crash or bad weather of course – the traffic heading back into Thurrock could have major issues.
“The last plans I saw involved traffic lights and holding up traffic if an over-height lorry is heading for the easternmost and oldest tunnel. How long will traffic be held? How often will the lights be used? How long will the queues be south of the river?”
He said: “It seems common sense to me that drivers and businesses should not be hit with the double whammy of more (government imposed) queues on top of more (government imposed) costs.
“I have written to the minister to point this out. I know our local businesses are not at all keen on the increased charges and I’m sure Thurrock-based businesses will not want to have their loads and lorries sitting in even more queues while they’re heading home.”
Cllr Kent added: “I have also written to the Thurrock MP seeking her support. As the minister is a member of the same party she may be able to arrange for us to meet him together.
“I’m sure her business contacts will have let her know their thoughts about the rise just as mine have told me. A joint approach seems to make perfect sense.”