Businesses want Dartford Crossing toll booth removal speeded-up

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The government has been urged to speed up plans to remove toll booths from the Dartford Crossing to "improve growth" in the South East.

The booths are due be replaced by an electronic charging system in October 2014.

However, business groups have said this needs to be brought forward to encourage growth.

The Department for Transport said it would introduce the new system sooner if possible.

Chairman of the South East Local Enterprise Partnership, John Spence, said the crossing was the "greatest single barrier to growth and enterprise" in the region.

"At the very least we need to be assured that free-flow tolling would happen as planned in 2014, but we believe the programme can and should be accelerated significantly," he said.

'Complex project'

The new system would allow drivers to pay by phone, text, online or in shops.

This is intended to speed-up traffic and reduce congestion on the crossing between Kent and Essex.

A spokeswoman for the Department for Transport said: "We are committed to introducing free-flow charging to tackle congestion and improve journey times at the Dartford-Thurrock River Crossing by October 2014.

"We shall introduce it sooner if we can.

"This is a complex project and getting the implementation right is vital.

"We also have to recognise this will be the first time such charging technology will be used on the roads we manage."

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