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Tag Systems

Volume 589: debated on Thursday 4 December 2014

1. If he will take steps to encourage operators of toll roads, bridges and tunnels to recognise each other’s tag systems. (906428)

We have made life easier in several ways for people who pay to use crossings: cashless, free flow charging at Dartford; credit card payments at the Severn crossings; and the new Mersey gateway bridge will benefit from cashless tolling. The idea that the five tag systems work together is an interesting one, but I have not received representations from those who represent hauliers and others.

Well, I shall make representations now. Some 40,000 people have M6 tag cards, but these cannot be used on any other crossing, and that seems madness to me. There was an attempt some years ago to get Transport for London and others to allow roaming of these tag cards, so will the Minister play a proactive part in trying to ensure that we have commonality among tag systems?

“Proactive” is my second name. My hon. Friend always brings originality to this Chamber and this is an interesting and original idea, which I would be more than happy to discuss with him. As I say, I have not received formal representations, but his representations are enough for me and I am more than happy to meet him.

In the changes the Minister was just extolling, he only touched on the recent ones at the Dartford river crossing. How does he justify raising the charge by 25% and the whacking £105 fine if someone forgets? How much are those fines estimated to raise during the next year? How much will the scheme cost to administer and, by the way, how will he ensure that foreign drivers pay the charge?

Unusually, the right hon. Gentleman is being rather critical and negative, and it is not in his character to be so. The changes we are making at Dartford are important and forward-looking and they are succeeding. He is right about ensuring that all who need to pay do pay, and the progress report I can give the House today is that the changes introduced just a few days ago are on schedule, on time and in tune with the wishes of local people, who will get discounts, as he will know. By paying in advance, people will also pay less.

I am bound to say that I always regard the right hon. Gentleman as an English classicist, and to my mind the pronunciation “skedule” is an Americanism that I would not expect of him.

Following the welcome introduction of free flow tolling and the Dart charge, a number of my constituents have experienced problems accessing the residents’ discount and transferring from the old system to the new. Will my right hon. Friend update the House on whether these are isolated incidents or whether there is a systemic problem?

I take your advice particularly seriously, Mr Speaker, as you know, but I did not want anyone to think that modernity was a foreign place for me, so I was adopting a little Americanism.

My hon. Friend is right to highlight the interests of his constituents, as he always does so forcefully. As these questions need to have a real and direct purpose, I shall set up a special line for my hon. Friend so he can feed into the system any concerns his constituents have. It will be a conduit by which he can articulate their needs and worries so that we can get this absolutely right.