The Freight Transport Association says that far from increasing charges for vehicles to use the Dartford Tunnel and bridge, the charges should be totally scrapped. FTA says that the Government reneged on its original promise to scrap charges when the cost of the crossing had been paid for and has added insult to injury by now proposing increased rates. Stopping fast moving traffic on a vital motorway to collect a toll is daft. FTA was reacting to the announcement today (Thursday 19 October) that there will be changes to charges at the Dartford crossing.
FTA External Affairs Director Geoff Dossetter said, 'The M25 is one of the most important motorways in the country and collecting tolls at Dartford adds to the prospect of interrupting the smooth running on an extremely busy stretch of road. We should have scrapped the tolls completely when they paid for the construction costs of the crossing some four years ago.
'The proposed increase on the day rate for multi-axle goods vehicles from £2.90 to £3.20 means that a there and back journey, five days a week, 52 weeks a year will cost a lorry operator using the automatic tag charge an extra £156 per year – a small fleet of five vehicles obliged to use the route will have to pay an extra £780 per year – obviously unwelcome and unnecessary extra costs. And for more occasional users not using the automatic tag, then the increase of £1.10 per journey is substantially higher.
'Collecting tolls on the M25 is completely inappropriate. Two years ago when FTA challenged the system with the Government, ministers told us that they could not scrap the tolls because it would 'make the crossing more busy'. Indeed Dr Ladyman says as much in his statement.
'These price increases seem to be a half-baked attempt at road pricing, but will surely do nothing to reduce traffic volumes – merely increase Government revenue over and above the £70 million per year they collect in tolls at Dartford at present.
'FTA certainly welcomes the proposals for the scrapping of overnight charges, producing savings of £520 per vehicle per year for a five days a week operation. Freight is increasingly moved at night and this move is sensible and helpful, as are the discount incentives for use of the automatic tag system.
'However, the fact remains that there should be no charge on the M25 at Dartford for either car drivers or goods vehicle operators. The most efficient way of ensuring free flow of traffic in the area would be to scrap the tolls altogether.
'These proposals are presently a consultation. FTA will certainly participate in that consultation process and continue its argument that the tolls should be scrapped altogether.'