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DfT launches Dartford crossing consultation

Date: 07 July 2011

Increased cost, temporary suspension of charging in times of "severe congestion", new charging technology and a long-term plan for an additional Thames crossing are all contained in a new Government consultation document on the Dartford Crossing.

The cost of using the Dartford-Thurrock River Crossing is set to rise to £2 per car late this year and £2.50 per car in spring 2012, although it will still be free between 10pm-6am if the consultation process, which closes on 23 September, is successful.

A new Highways Agency trial also began on 1 July, with the agency being handed the power to suspend the charges "at times of congestion when the level of severity is such as to constitute an emergency". Running for six months, the trial could suspend charges in one or both directions until traffic conditions return to agreed levels.

The Department for Transport claims the cost of crossing is "relatively low in comparison with some other strategic river crossings", and said charging is a vital part of managing capacity of the busy crossing. According to the DfT's figures, the crossing was above its design capacity on 257 days last year. Between 22-32% of vehicles using the crossing are on non-commuting business journeys.

Looking further ahead, the DfT's consultation pledges to introduce free-flowing charging technology using automatic number plate recognition for pre-registered users by the end of 2013.

Looking further ahead, the DfT is investigating additional capacity for crossing the Thames at one of three sites identified in 2009, with the first phase of investigations due to take between 12-18 months. Any eventual new crossing would cost £1bn-£7bn.

The DfT has also announced £155m of investment in local schemes across eight regions and 37 local authorities, designed to boost economic growth and cut carbon emissions. The money comes from the Local Sustainable Transport Fund, worth £560m over the next four years.

These include a package of measures in Hampshire including car sharing and EV charging points, expanded park and ride, and a single smartcard for car parking, buses and cycle hire in Oxford, plus a 'wheel to work' scheme in South Yorkshire to help people in isolated areas commute by bike, scooter or electric bike.

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