Observations by the Association of British Drivers
The ABD objects to the government's decision to continue tolls on the Dartford crossing.
We note the government's admission (Section 9) that a two year study by Brown & Root about the impact of changes in tolls, contained "significant margin for error in its findings". Consequently we find it deplorable that the findings are used to prop up the case for charging.
As a matter of principle, the ABD considers it unacceptable to continue to charge vehicles to use the Dartford crossing once the initial period of paying off the debts associated with the construction of the bridge and tunnels has passed.
The government has no moral right to impose charges on the public highway. Such concepts are archaic and belong back in the eighteenth century.
The Dartford crossing is a vital part of Britain's national trunk network and should be maintained as part of it, not subject to some additional charge.
It is fundamentally unacceptable in a free society that any government should attempt to use road tolls in order to discourage travel; or as is increasingly the case, to enforce a particular political ideology. It is the job of government in any democratic country to facilitate travel, not to restrict it. The restriction of travel is a concept that belongs with communism or other political extremes.
Tolls are a grossly inefficient way of collecting money. A significant proportion of the money raised from them has to be spent on the effort of collecting them. Far better to pay for the route maintenance from the general roads budget.
The claim that the continuation of charging will "help to smooth the flow of traffic at the crossing" is absurd.
At peak times the congestion is entirely due to the effect of the toll booths themselves. This congestion can extend for many miles either side of the crossing, leading to massive delays, and increasing business costs.
It is an insult to drivers to impose a "congestion charge" upon vehicles, when it is only the collection of the charge itself that is causing the congestion.
Despite our serious objections to the proposed extension of the tolls, the ABD observes that in the current political climate roads are perversely regarded as some kind of problem rather than as the primary arteries of the country.
We therefore consider that the government will in all likelyhood continue to go against the vast majority of public opinion on transport matters and proceed with the charges.
In this event we would make the following observations:
The ABD fully supports the decision to remove any charge for motorcycles, but consider that the reasons for this — to speed the flow of traffic — apply to all other vehicles as well. We further ask what facilities will be provided to allow motorcycles free passage through the toll barriers.
We consider the rate for trailers or caravans — twice the normal rate — to be excessive, since any such vehicle does not occupy twice the effective road space of a non-towing vehicle. Further, since most non-commercial trailers and caravans are lightweight they inflict no additional damage upon the road over and above that of the towing vehicle. The additional charge is not going to dissuade towing vehicles from using the Dartford crossing, it merely acts to penalize those who use a trailer or tow a caravan. We thus consider the additional charge to be unjustified and petty.
The higher rate for light goods vehicles (i.e. vans) is unreasonable. Such vehicles take up no more road space than a car, and vary in size and weight considerably. The higher cost has to be passed on to their customers, and prevents them using the auto-tolls to pass through the toll booths more quickly.
The higher rate for minibuses will have particular impact on voluntary groups, charities, and schools. In this case we consider the higher rate to be grossly unfair, and in many cases to penalize those who can least afford to pay.
The charge of £5.80 for HGVs with trailer is an affront to common sense. Would not a charge of exactly £5 be so significantly quicker and easier to collect that it would compensate for the loss of revenue?
We demand that all money raised should be spent only on the maintenance of the route itself, and than the charges be reduced to reflect this. It is unacceptable that road users should be forced to subsidize other forms of transport. Drivers do not expect rail and bus users to subsidize them, so why should road users be forced to subsidize rail and bus users?
In May 2001, the ABD put forward the Proposed Outer London Orbital ('POLO') transport corridor , including both motorway and rail. The construction of this would resolve existing congestion problems on the M25, and make the government's concerns over congestion at the Dartford Crossing irrelevant. Further details may be found on our website — here
What's happened since the consulation (in chronological order) :