INCREASES in toll charges at the Dartford Crossing have been greeted with dismay by the leader of Thurrock Council - and the leader of the AA.
Charges at the crossing are to rise in October, the Government announced on Tuesday.
Car drivers will be charged £2 from the autumn, a rise of 50p.
Electronic charging, which means vehicles will not have to stop, will be introduced in 2014, when the charge for cars will rise to £2.50.
Crossings on motorcycles remain free and there will be discounts for Thurrock and Dartford residents and those who pay in advance.
The charge for drivers of light goods vehicles will rise from £2 to £2.50 in October, while heavy goods vehicles will be charged £5 - up from £3.70.
These will rise to £3 and £6 respectively in 2014.
AA president Edmund King described the price rise as “totally unacceptable.”
He said: “Drivers have paid for this crossing many times over and hence all tolls should be dropped.”
Cllr John Kent, (right) responded to the government’s announcement by saying: “I think the government has missed a trick. I’m obviously disappointed the tolls are going up - twice - but there is no help for local or national business here either.
“I have to say thank-you for the Government’s promise to maintain the local ‘discount’ at the same rate, but again our suggestion that local businesses should be included seems to have fallen on deaf ears.
“They are looking at possibly extending the geographic area for the discount and I can understand the logic in that, but in these difficult economic times, this was a perfect opportunity to give businesses a boost too … a trick missed.
“We lobbied for local businesses to be included but sadly without success.
“I cannot welcome the news there will be a 66 per cent increase in the tolls for cars - up one third to £2 this autumn and then to £2.50 in 2014.
“Nor can I welcome the fact that free-flow charging will not be introduced until October 2014. That’s two-and-a-half years away, and it’s something we need today.
“It is also really disappointing the tolls for goods vehicles are rising by similar percentages, unfortunately it seems the crossing is seen as a cash-cow bringing in the money, not a business opportunity, freeing up commerce.”
Thurrock MP Jackie Doyle-Price was also somewhat downbeat, having campaigned for more positive action for Thurrock on the tolls.
She said: “I have consistently argued that there should be no increase in tolls until the introduction of free-flow tolling.
“The Department has met me half way by postponing the proposed increases and by agreeing that the second increase will come in before the barriers are removed.
“The revenues raised will be used for road improvements, including the £160m investment in improvements at J30.
“These increases make it all the more important that residents take advantage of their discount.
“Take up of the residents discount is very low and I am meeting with the Minister next week to discuss what more we can do to get residents to use it.”