England

Dartford Crossing toll charges 'devastating'

Queen Elizabeth II bridge
Image caption The Dartford Crossing carries about 150,000 vehicles a day

Tolls on the Dartford Crossing should be scrapped to help boost the local economy, a group representing public bodies and businesses has said.

The South East Local Enterprise Partnership (Selep) said charges "can have devastating effects on business."

The Department for Transport (DfT) wants to increase car tolls from £1.50 to £2 in November and £2.50 in 2012.

The crossing comprises a dual tunnel northbound and bridge southbound, linking Essex and Kent.

The local enterprise partnerships were set up to stimulate economic growth, replacing the publicly-funded regional development agencies.

George Kieffer, who chairs Selep, said: "It is not rocket science to see the toll booths act as a major traffic bottleneck which can have a huge knock on effect for the surrounding road network.

'Hard-pressed families'

"This is not good for any motorist but can have devastating effects on businesses especially in this economic climate.

"Removing the booths and tolls will ease the huge delays people often endure, as well as the financial burden to hard-pressed families and businesses."

If the charges are not scrapped, Selep called for them to be suspended at times of severe congestion.

There should also be greater discounts for motorists who pay in advance and any increase should be introduced in one stage rather than two to avoid confusion.

According to the DfT, the crossing tolls bring in about £40m in profit each year.

It has said the extra revenue would be spent on improvements to the crossing.

A consultation on the proposals ends on Friday.

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