Number 10 Downing Street has issued a disappointing response to the petition to scrap Dartford Crossing Charges, as mentioned previously HERE. The full response from No 10 is copied for ease of reference below:
Thank you for your e-petition.
The Dartford-Thurrock River Crossing is a vital transport link for both the national and South East economies which has brought huge economic benefits and opportunities. However, more vehicles want to use the Crossing than it can accommodate, and studies indicate that without any charge traffic levels would be 17% higher leading to even more extensive congestion.
That is why, using powers agreed by Parliament and following a full consultation, a charge replaced the existing toll in 2003.
With continuing traffic pressures and the prospect of demand rising in the longer term The Department for Transport consulted on a change to charges in December 2006 including the removal of overnight charges, and a new charging structure that offered greater discounts for those who pay be electronic DART-Tag. The consultation also sought views about the possibility of creating a local resident discount scheme. . In April 2007, the Department for Transport responded to the consultation, announcing that it would develop a local discount scheme. A further consultation in February 2008 sought comments on the local discount scheme. The new charging structure and the local discount scheme came into operation on 15 November 2008.
To deal with each of the three specific points made in the e-petition in turn:
· To say congestion is largely due to the effect of the toll booths is incorrect. For much of the day the Crossing is operating at or above its capacity. The tunnels could not handle any more traffic than the toll plaza can process. Under the new charging structure there are no charges at night when traffic is lighter - and there are incentives to encourage people to pay without cash. With more people using the Dart Tag, traffic flow through the charging booths will be smoother, helping to reduce unnecessary delays at the barriers. But barriers will always be necessary to manage traffic flows.
· Traffic modelling has also suggested that lifting the charges would dramatically and seriously worsen pollution on the Crossing. Air Quality Management Areas have been established adjacent to the A282 approaches to the Crossing. These require action to meet mandatory EU limits by 2010. The Highways Agency also monitors air quality annually.
· Anyone - regardless of where they live - can continue to pay the old rate of £1.00 by using an electronic Dart-Tag. Lorries and vans using the Dart-Tag will also benefit from significant reductions. During the 2006 consultation, local people made a strong case for a local discount scheme and we listened. Residents of Dartford and Thurrock are entitled to a tag which gives them 50 free crossings per year on payment of a £10 annual administration fee. Thereafter crossings will cost 20p each.
In the longer term we expect demand for use of the Crossing to grow, and we have commissioned a study to look at addressing this growth, including the possibility of a new crossing in the area.
Revenue from the Crossing comes to the Department for Transport and is spent on maintenance/operations costs of the crossing and transport investment both in the local area and nationally.