Dartford got plenty of coverage over the weekend as a result of the introduction of free-flow tolling at the Crossing. Local residents can still claim a discount and Dartford Borough Council have today advised residents to visit gov.uk for further information.

In a statement today ‘Free Flow Tolling is a start, but now we must get the whole of Dartford moving’, Dartford Council Leader Jeremy Kite has said that abolishing toll booths at the Dartford Crossing must be just the start of a co-ordinated transport plan to ensure that local residents and businesses enjoy congestion-free journeys around the town. Speaking after a visit to the Dartford Crossing on the first full day of free-flow tolling Councillor Kite said, “Removing the toll booths is a big step forward but we mustn’t allow this progress to stop at major strategic motorways. The congestion experienced by local traffic in recent months has been absolutely diabolical and Dartford town centre has been gridlocked on a regular basis. I accept that improvements at the crossing may alleviate some of these problems but it’s obvious that the full impact of changes at the Crossing won’t be felt until the northbound barriers are finally removed in early 2015.”

Councillor Kite says Dartford is working closely with its neighbouring authority in Gravesham to persuade transport authorities and Government that a new approach to keeping people moving is needed if the area is to continue contributing to the south east economy at current levels, let alone accept new growth from places like Ebbsfleet and London Paramount.  “That new thinking must bring together ALL the threads of a journey and that means focussing NOT just on the M25 but also on local roads, rail services, buses, footpaths and cycling connections,” said Councillor Kite. “If we are serious about creating a modern, viable community then an equally modern and co-ordinated transport system must be at the very heart of it.  Residents and businesses must have a fair expectation that journey times will be predictable and not wrecked by delays.  Businesses must be able to expand and know that staff can get to-and-from work whilst residents should be able to spend time with their families, not trapped in jams with lots of other frustrated motorists.”

Dartford Labour’s Prospective Parliamentary Candidate, Simon Thomson, responded to this weekend’s developments that ‘Free-Flow won’t free up Dartford’.

While the introduction of the new free-flow payment system at the Dartford Crossing is welcome, it is not going to solve the considerable congestion that blights Dartford.  It is also wrong to use the introduction of the new charging system to increase charges again for drivers.  At the last General Election, the Conservative MP for Dartford, Gareth Johnson, campaigned to get rid of the tolls at the crossing. But they went up by a third soon after.  Now, with the introduction of free-flow, car drivers have been hit with a further increase in the charge, from £2 to £2.50.  Gareth Johnson has failed to lobby his Tory chums in government over scrapping the tolls. And with the government still considering siting another crossing at Dartford, he’s failing to stand up for Dartford’s residents and businesses.  The government should rule out siting another crossing at Dartford now.  Our roads grind to a halt whenever there’s a problem and local residents and businesses suffer from considerable congestion and pollution.  It does not take a traffic expert to realise that building another crossing in the same place as the existing one makes little sense.  Traffic needs to be given a choice of routes to spread the load.  Or Dartford will remain a bottleneck forever more’.

As Labour’s Parliamentary Candidate for Dartford, I have recently set out a strategy for tackling the area’s considerable transport problems, and they can be seen at simonthomson.org’.

 

About the author

Andy Clark is retired after a long career at Lloyds Register and subsequently the Civil Service. He has lived in Dartford for his entire life.

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