MP backs our bid to axe the toll

PUBLISHED: 16:18 11 March 2009 | UPDATED: 16:17 25 August 2010

THE government has been accused of increasing toll charges to create a cash cow as a Conservative MP adds his support to our campaign to scrap the charges.

THE government has been accused of increasing toll charges to create a 'cash cow' as a Conservative MP adds his support to our campaign to scrap the charges.

James Brokenshire, MP for Hornchurch and the current Conservative Parliamentary candidate for Old Bexley and Sidcup, is furious about the 50 per cent increase.

He claims it was done to increase revenue and supports the Kentish Times campaign to scrap tolls for a one month trial period, with more than 1,000 residents adding their support.

Figures published by the government reveal that revenue from the Dartford crossing in the last financial year was £42.9 million, down from £47.3 million in the 12 months to March 31 2007.

He said: "Despite the assurances of government ministers, it is difficult not to draw a link between the slump in income and the increase in charges.

"The timing of the increase in the tolls just doesn't stack up, it seems to have been put through when the money the government is getting from the tolls has gone down.

"We need a proper study to examine the charges, how they are used and whether it is right that the charges remain.

"I would support your campaign to axe the toll charges. If the argument is about managing congestion, lets have a period where we don't have the charges and see whether what they say is correct or not."

He also said the government argument that charges were increased from £1 to £1.50 for cars in a bid to control congestion is not justified, as the actual number of vehicles using the crossing has been falling.

Mr Brokenshire said: "They argue that the charges were intended to control congestion, yet vehicle movements have been falling and are likely to fall further because of the downturn in the economy.

"The charges were intended to pay for the cost of the construction of the bridge. These costs have been paid in full for several years now and even if there is an argument on congestion management, the increase in charges isn't justified and should be scrapped.

"It all raises my suspicions about the way that charges are being used. Is it a cash cow rather than a traffic management approach?"

A Department for Transport spokesperson said: "The fall in local traffic does not alter the fact that for much of the day the crossing is operating at or above its capacity because more people want to use it than can be accommodated, and in the longer term traffic is expected to continue to grow.

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