POLITICIANS are lining up to condemn plans to increase tolls on the Dartford Crossing.

Bexley Council leader Councillor Ian Clement has written to Transport Secretary Douglas Alexander to protest the "extortionate" increase.

He says it will "hit the pockets of thousands of working people and is a further tax on the motorist".

Erith and Thamesmead's Labour MP John Austin is concerned how the price rise will affect the Thames Gateway Bridge, which would have tolls of £2 in daytime for cars and £3 at peak times.

After a public inquiry, the planning inspector's decision on the proposed bridge is still awaited.

Mr Austin has written to transport minister Stephen Ladyman and said: "To recommend changing the tolls at Dartford at this stage could mean the inspector's decision is flawed and an unworkable toll operation will be in place, leading to increased traffic and pollution."

Mr Ladyman also announced a new study into the possibility of a new crossing, something the Kent and Essex county councils are already planning.

Mr Austin and Tory MPs David Evennett, from Bexleyheath and Crayford, and Derek Conway from Old Bexley and Sidcup have signed a House of Commons early day motion urging the Government to withdraw its plans.

The motion points out the original Dartford Crossing Bill stated the tolls would stop once the cost of the tunnels and bridge had been met.

This was achieved three years ago but the Government allowed the charges to continue.

The motion calls for Parliament to reconsider whether the tolls should be scrapped completely, a proposal supported by Dartford's Labour MP, Dr Howard Stoate.

However, Kent and Essex councils want the £70,000 a year raised by the tolls to be given to them.


THE Government has announced proposals to increase daytime charges for using the Dartford Tunnel and Queen Elizabeth II Bridge from £1 a time to £1.50 for car drivers.

Tolls for vans would rise from £1.80 to £2 and for lorries it would increase from £2.90 to £4.

The Government says it is making the changes to encourage drivers to use the DART-Tag sytem.

This system uses an electronic top-up device which allows vehicles to drive straight through the toll booths.

Another proposal is to scrap the night-time toll, payable between 10pm and 6am, to encourage more freight to be moved at night.

The Government believes these measures will help cut congestion and pollution.