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The truth behind the toll

PUBLISHED: 15:07 28 October 2009 | UPDATED: 17:18 25 August 2010

TRANSPORT ministers have admitted congestion at the Dartford Tunnel costs the economy £40 million a year. Chris Mole, parliamentary under secretary at the Department of Transport, raised the findings in the House of Commons after government plans to sell

TRANSPORT ministers have admitted congestion at the Dartford Tunnel costs the economy £40 million a year.

Chris Mole, parliamentary under secretary at the Department of Transport, raised the findings in the House of Commons after government plans to sell the asset were revealed.

Earlier this month the proposal sparked fury from council leaders and supporters of our campaign to end charging at the crossing.

Figures from an earlier survey, and discussed in the Commons last Thursday, concluded that "the section of the network that includes the Dartford Crossing experiences the third highest level of delay nationwide."

A typical four lane section of UK motorway can support 7,000 vehicles an hour in each direction experiencing little variation in average speed.

But speed and flow relationships at the crossing show great speed variability and delays when flows exceed 4,000 vehicles an hour.

Officers at the Department of Transport maintain, despite staunch opposition, that charges are in place to prevent over congestion in the tunnel and bridge.

A response to a Freedom of Information request about the reason for the continued charge states: "The original intention was to remove tolls when the costs of the Bridge had been recovered.

"However, traffic levels have risen far faster than projected and an earlier study has indicated that removal of toll charges would increase traffic levels by 17 per cent on 2003 levels."

Figures from the Highways Agency looking at the crossing use from April 1 to September this year, compared with 2008 before the rise in charges show only a one per cent drop in use.

The Prime Minister announced a fortnight ago plans to sell the crossing, Channel Tunnel rail link the Student Loan Book over the next two years. It is hoped the sales would raise £3 billion towards the country's debt.

nicholas.hitchens@archant.co.uk

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