On 14 September 2011, the Hon Member for Dartford (Gareth Johnson MP) presented to the House a petition:
“The petition of residents of Dartford and readers of the Dartford Messenger newspaper, declares that the petitioners are opposed to any increase in tolls charged for the Dartford Crossing. The petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Department for Transport not to increase tolls on the Dartford Crossing and to reconsider the emergency measures to lift the barriers during severe congestion and extend the local residents discount scheme. And the petitioners remain, etc.”
Regrettably, the ‘Observations by the Secretary of State’ published by the Department for Transport on 14 October were incorrect, and related to another petition. The observations should have been as follows:
The government set out its intention to revise the road user charging regime at the Dartford-Thurrock River Crossing as part of the outcomes of the government’s 2010 Comprehensive Spending Review in October 2010.
Subject to consultation, the government proposed increasing the levels of road user charges in 2011 and 2012, in order to continue the prioritisation of improvements to the crossing in the short, medium and longer term. The improvements include the suspension of charges at the times when an emergency exists such as severe congestion, the implementation of new, free-flow, charging technology, and the review of options for additional crossing capacity.
The Department for Transport published for consultation the details of its proposed revisions to the road user charging regime on 30 June 2011 and the consultation period closed on 23 September 2011.
The department recently announced that there will be no increase in charges in November 2011 or April 2012.
The department is considering the responses made during the consultation, and will consider carefully all the representations made before making any announcements on its conclusions.
The Highways Agency began a 6 month trial of an operational charge suspension protocol in July 2011, and it will review the effectiveness of the trial following its conclusion in December 2011.