Q: I am not aware that the traffic congestion and pollution caused by the tolls is being taken seriously by the coalition Government.
Please let me know whether this is an issue on which you would be prepared to campaign hard if elected as a member of the GLA.
A: Thank you for raising your concerns about the Dartford Crossing tolls with me. As you know, the Crossing is seen as a national rather than a regional facility, managed by ConnectPlus on behalf of the Highways Agency. It is however entirely appropriate that Assembly members ask hard questions about the Crossing, especially given its impact on many Londoners.
At a time when the Government is trying to close the deficit in the national budget, it is I think unlikely that they would be willing to look at abolishing the tolls, although it is certainly appropriate to ask for reports on how much net income is generated from tolls and how this is spent.
The operators encourage pre-payment to reduce congestion, and give discounts for people living nearby. The Assembly could usefully enquire how well these schemes are working in practice. I agree that a remote payment system sounds like a sensible approach. The Department for Transport has also looked at redesigning the layout of the crossing and/or introducing one-way tolls to keep traffic moving.
The highest levels of traffic are consistently in July, during the summer holidays; it may be that congestion could be reduced by better publicising advance payment options to holiday-makers, including by operators of cross-channel ferries and regional airports who may be the destinations for this extra traffic.
Getting both passenger and freight traffic off the roads and onto rail should also be part of a joined-up and environmentally responsible solution. With that in mind, I will continue to campaign for the Thameslink upgrade to be completed as well as Crossrail.