Transport Minister Stephen Ladyman has announced radical plans to alter charging for the Dartford tunnel, with new proposals to raise charges across the board and introduce a system of electronic tags.

Ladyman said: “The crossing struggles to cope with the volumes of traffic for much of the time, leading to long queues. As the traffic increases the queues will get worse, so we need to act.”

A consultation, which begins this coming December, is expected to propose raising the toll from £1 to £1.50 for cars, while introducing “Dart Tags” attached to the windscreen that automatically debit the fee and remove the need for queuing at barriers. The electronic tags will reduce the toll to £1 per crossing.

Dr Ladyman has also proposed removing the charge at night to encourage more freight traffic at night.

The Freight Transport Association (FTA) was quick to respond, damning the Minister’s proposals as a “half-baked attempt at road pricing”.

The FTA called for a complete abolition of the charge, claiming that following the proposed toll increases, a small business running five vehicles will pay an extra £780 a year in charges.

The hauliers’ representatives also criticised the Government for rescinding its promise to scrap charging once the construction costs for the crossing were recovered.

The FTA claims costs were met four years ago and the increases would do nothing to reduce traffic volumes, but merely raise revenue higher than the current £70m generated by the crossing each year.