Monday, October 31, 2016

Freight Lobby and Local Residents Highlight Continuing Problems at Dartford Crossing

Failure of Removal of Toll Booths Prompts Criticism and Obscene Protest Song
Shipping News Feature
UK – The removal in 2015 of the toll booths at the Dartford Crossing which crosses the River Thames east of London was hoped to reduce congestion at the notorious traffic hotspot by giving drivers a clear run along the M25 motorway. By removing the choke point and replacing the booths with an automatic vehicle registration system akin to the charging zone used in London it seemed that the chronic traffic issues experienced at Dartford could become a thing of the past. Unfortunately, things haven’t worked out quite as well as hoped.

The UKs Freight Transport Association (FTA) said last month it understood that almost a quarter of foreign registered vehicles are failing to pay the charge and that the authorities are not pursuing the outstanding fees as they do with UK registered vehicles. This, the FTA claims, is giving foreign freight companies an unfair advantage against UK-based firms. Natalie Chapman, FTA's Head of Policy for London and the South East, said:

"All vehicles, wherever they are based, should be paying the charge and should be pursued for non-payment. Otherwise, what starts off as a relatively small problem of non-compliance can quickly grow to a big problem and that creates an uneven playing field for UK operators."

Certainly, as any regular traveller knows, delays at both the Queen Elizabeth bridge running north - south, and through the parallel twin tunnels in the other direction, can be extreme to put it mildly, despite the fact the tolls booths are no longer there. This goes against all logic but the sheer volume of traffic at rush hours, combined with the confusion of travellers unfamiliar with the system, high winds closing the bridge, power outages in the tunnels etc. seems to generate congestion which rapidly turns into gridlock.

Dissatisfaction with the performance and management of the Dartford crossing has led to some local residents releasing a festive (and obscene) song about the much maligned road link across the Thames. The spoof website Southend News Network’s video has been viewed almost one million times in three days and, it says, is hoping to make their song the UK’s No.1 Christmas single. Anyone wanting to hear the song, which contains extremely bad language (Not Advisable to Play at Work) can do so here.

Photo: The Queen Elizabeth bridge with traffic backed up again.