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We need a lower Thames crossing'

PUBLISHED: 16:05 14 January 2009 | UPDATED: 16:00 25 August 2010

TOLLS should be scrapped and a lower Thames crossing built to revive the economy, according to a leading campaign group.

TOLLS should be scrapped and a lower Thames crossing built to revive the economy, according to a leading campaign group.

Andrew Aves, from the Federation of Small Businesses, the UK's largest pressure group for the self-employed and small firms, believes the government needs to act quickly by scrapping charges at the Dartford crossing.

The call comes as more than 1,000 Kentish Times readers have signed a petition calling for the tolls to be axed. A cross-party group of MPs have lodged a petition on the Prime Minister's website with over 10,000 signatures demanding the tolls be dumped after daytime charges were increased in November.

Mr Aves said the "drip, drip" effect of toll increases was crippling businesses on both sides of the Thames when combined with rises on fuel excise duty to offset the 2.5 percent VAT cut. He said: "Most workers in small businesses - that have always been the key to reviving the economy - have to use the crossing by day.

"Far from scrapping the charges as was promised, the government have increased costs for firms and commuters at a time when they are facing huge financial pressure and redundancy risks. How can you trust people who change their minds? The charges do nothing to tackle congestion, you are effectively paying drivers to go nowhere when they are stuck in queues waiting to pay the toll." He said congestion and pollution levels in Dartford could only be relieved by scrapping the tolls.

The FSB in Kent has also been in talks with Kent County Council and counterparts in Essex over a lower Thames crossing which they believe would boost the construction industry and kick-start the economy in the south-east.

Mr Aves added: "The FSB supports a lower Thames crossing.

As a major project it would bring work to the construction industry at a vital time and stimulate this corner of the country.

"It is ultimately the only way to meet the infrastructure needs that make up government plans to develop the Thames Gateway."

The Department for Transport maintains that without a congestion charge, traffic would increase 17 per cent. Its decision to scrap tolls from 10pm to 6am and raise daytime fees from £1 to £1.50 for cars forms part of the same policy aimed at reducing congestion.

Times readers can pick up a free car poster from you nearest office. Just visit our district office at Roxby House, Station Road, Sidcup, Kent DA15 7EJ to collect your poster.

martin.sawden@archant.co.uk

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