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Scrap the tolls’

PUBLISHED: 18:01 30 April 2008 | UPDATED: 14:43 25 August 2010

MPs have vowed to lobby government until tolls that cause misery for thousands of commuters are scrapped.

MPs have vowed to lobby government until tolls that cause misery for thousands of commuters are scrapped.

In a public show of solidarity MPs from Bromley, Bexleyheath and Gravesham met close to the Dartford River Crossing last Friday.

They condemned the government's plan to exclude their constituents from a discount scheme restricted to Thurrock and Dartford residents, who will get 50 free crossings a year and then a 90 per cent discount.

They were joined by the Freight Transport Association and heads of the Kent Association of British Drivers, whose members say they are "sick and tired" of being stuck in tailbacks caused by toll booths.

Gravesham MP Adam Holloway said the government must hold a one-week trial without tolls to assess the impact on traffic flow and pollution.

He added: "This charging may have worked 20 years ago but it doesn't work now. It's a waste of people's time being stuck in queues day after day.

"For people who live outside Dartford borough it is just another tax."

Bexleyheath and Crayford MP David Evennett said: "The current system is unfair and we will not let this go until the tolls are scrapped.

"Last year we put questions to the government in parliament but our demands have fallen on deaf ears. We have been let down."

They believe the 2004 Babtie report, Getting the most out of the Dartford Crossing, is not objective because it was drawn up by those who have a stake in the crossing.

Bromley and Chislehurst MP Bob Neill said the government's transport policy in relation to charges across south east London and north Kent showed a lack of consistency.

He added: "There is a lack of joined-up thinking. A lot of my constituents rely on the crossing. It is part of their local network but we are not seeing a fair level of investment.

"This area is crucial to the Thames Gateway project and deserves a better deal."

Roger Lawson, chairman of Bromley Borough Roads Action Group, said it was "ridiculous" for the government to say the tolls reduce traffic flows. He added: "Traffic is free flowing either side of the M25 until you approach the crossing.

"Pollution affects Dartford significantly. It's one of the worst affected areas on the whole M25."

FTA regional policy manager Natalie Chapman said delays were costing businesses millions of pounds a year, which consumers have to pay.

Gravesham Borough Council has given its support to the campaign but has suggested the test be extended to a month.

A Department for Transport (DfT) spokesman said: "Charges at the Dartford Crossing help tackle congestion and were introduced after consultation, having been agreed in parliament. Revenues from the crossing are invested in public transport. Traffic demand on the Dartford Crossing is growing. We have no plans to remove the charges, but we do accept that at quiet times there is no need for them, which is why we will be removing them at night from the autumn."

martin.sawden@archant.co.uk

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