CAMPAIGNERS against the Thames Gateway Bridge believe Bexley Council may now be close to withdrawing its support for the project.

The day after the council unanimously rejected Transport for London (TfL) proposals to drastically reduce the number of Bexley residents who would qualify for discounted tolls, TfL's transport expert Richard Smith confirmed it was not likely to change the plan.

Bexley is the only one of the boroughs directly affected by the bridge where TfL has decided not all residents will qualify for discounted tolls.

TfL is proposing only people who live north of the A206 in Bexley will get the discount.

At the public inquiry into the bridge, being held at Charlton Athletic FC, Floyd Road, Charlton, Mr Smith said there may be "tweaking" to Bexley's discount area but no major changes would be considered until after the bridge opened.

Even then, changes would only be made if it could be shown roads in the area could cope with the extra traffic.

The inquiry has also heard no work has been done to calculate what effect the reduced discount area would have on regeneration in Bexley.

It has already been suggested even with the whole borough included in the discount area, Bexley would only gain a maximum of 500 new jobs as a result of the bridge.

Bexley's own traffic expert, Richard Hawkins, told the inquiry: "I think it is fundamental to our concerns now we get a reduced toll area, we get almost no regeneration but we still get the traffic."

He said TfL's plan to reduce Bexley's discount area had nothing to do with regeneration but was purely a traffic management scheme.

Mr Hawkins said the discussions with TfL were now about a rapidly-diminishing discount toll area and a rapidly increasing toll "so it can save TfL a few pounds on mitigation measures at some junctions."

Bexley cabinet member for transport Councillor Daniel Francis said: "We cannot accept what is being proposed.

"And we have got to look again at the legal advice on whether this is now a different application."

Jacqui Wise from Action Group Against the Bridge said: "How can Bexley even contemplate continuing to support this proposal?"