Dartford tolls to be dropped in 'severe' conditions

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Drivers who use the Dartford toll crossing have been handed a huge boost with the news that the charge could be dropped at peak times.

A six-month trial backed by the government is starting today and is hoping to ease congestion at the QEII bridge and tunnel that passes over the river Thames on the M25 motorway.

The suspension of the charges would happen at a time when the traffic is deemed to be severe, or in an 'emergency situation', and would not be at every rush hour. This is defined as being when the queues are stretching back to, or have to potential to reach back to, junctions four or 28 depending on the flow of the traffic. The crossing is between junctions 1a and 31 on the M25.

Even when the charges are suspended, the barriers will still rise and fall for each car in order to moderate speeds heading through the narrow gates.

Far from cutting charges for the crossing though, the government has also announced plans for the prices to rise once again, with cash payments due to increase from £1.50 to £2 late this year and then again to £2.50 in spring 2012. The Dart-Tag fee will rise from £1 to £1.33 in 2011 and £1.67 in 2012.

Roads minister Mike Penning said: "The Dartford-Thurrock River Crossing is a vital piece of transport infrastructure that has brought huge economic benefits and opportunities to the country.

"But the simple fact is many more motorists want to use the Crossing than it was designed for and this leads to frequent lengthy delays, frustration and damage to the economy."