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Roads: Dartford Crossing

Volume 706: debated on Tuesday 9 December 2008

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will hold a referendum in Essex and Kent on the continuation of the Dartford crossing tolls; and whether they will ring-fence future income for transport investment in the two counties. [HL7]

The charges at the Dartford crossing were introduced in 2003 after toll revenues had paid the costs of the QEII Bridge. Parliament agreed the enabling powers for the charge in 2000, and the introduction of charges was the subject of a consultation exercise. The Government have recently implemented a revised charging regime at the crossing following two consultation exercises. There are no plans to hold a referendum.

By law revenues from the crossing must be invested in transport. Until this year a proportion of revenues was made available to support integrated transport projects in the local area. Following our consultation on the local discount scheme this arrangement has now ceased and there are no plans to reintroduce any local earmarking of revenues. However, revenues from the crossing add to the resources available to the Department for Transport to support projects across the country, including investments in Kent and Essex.

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will trial the removal of the Dartford crossing tolls and assess the subsequent impact on congestion levels. [HL8]

The Government do not plan to undertake such a trial. The toll plazas fulfil an important traffic management function, especially going northbound into the tunnels, and allow the queues to be managed before the tunnel entrances rather than in them. The evidence indicates that the tunnels cannot accommodate more traffic than the toll plaza can process. Further, the barriers allow traffic to be held back while fuel tankers and other dangerous loads are escorted through. To undertake a proper trial it would be necessary to remove all the toll infrastructure, ie the booths and the steel and concrete protection surrounding them as it would not be safe to allow free-flow traffic to negotiate the narrow lanes past the toll booths.