Before 31 March 2003, tolls from the Dartford crossing financed the construction of the QE2 bridge, paid down pre-existing debts and provided a future maintenance fund. After 1 April 2003, a charging scheme to manage demand was introduced at the crossing, reflecting research suggesting that if the tolls were lifted, demand would be 17% higher and congestion would worsen accordingly. To respond directly to the hon. Lady’s question, the user charges have raised a net income of £669 million in the period 2003-14 to 2017-18, which has been reinvested in transport.
I thank the Minister for his response, but according to my reading of the legislation and the accounts, the income from the Dartford crossing is paid to the Department for Transport with no ring fence, so it can be spent anywhere on anything transport related. Will the Minister confirm whether that is the case? Given the crossing’s adverse effect on Bexley and Dartford residents in terms of air pollution, congestion, extended journey times and often complete gridlock—the hospital is on one side of the Dartford bridge and residents are on the other—what percentage of the income has been and will be spent on improving transport for those residents?
I can confirm that all the money raised is reinvested into transport, and the benefits of that are felt locally through the charge, which reduces congestion and therefore improves air quality. Of course, a vastly greater sum is projected to be invested in the lower Thames crossing, which is currently under way and will relieve significant burdens on her local community.