THE GOVERNMENT has abandoned plans to scrap tolls on the Dartford Crossing of the Thames when it is handed back to the private sector next year.
Transport minister John Spellar last week confirmed that the government will continue to levy the toll and use around £50M a year in profits to fund transport projects.
The Dartford Crossing comprises the two Dartford tunnels and the Queen Elizabeth II bridge, which between them, link the M25 together across the Thames, east of London.
The crossing is run by Macquarie Bank under a design build finance and operate scheme which runs out next March. When this happens, the crossing reverts to government ownership. Earlier in the concession, the government said it would scrap tolls after the handover.
Documents released this week by the Highways Agency and the Department of Transport Local Government & the Regions (DTLR) say that the government wants to use the profits to fund improvements to the M25, build a new river crossing in east London and pay for transport improvements in the Thames Gateway area east of the capital.
The announcement is likely to anger road users who expressed opposition to retaining the toll during a consultation exercise carried out by DTLR last year.
The government justified the decision on the grounds that axing the toll would increase the amount of traffic crossing the Thames by 17.6%.