RESIDENTS will be entitled to unlimited trips over the Dartford crossing for £20 per year, the Government has announced today.

Improvements to the Local Resident Discount Scheme mean those who regularly use the crossing will benefit, particularly those with privately owned vans, the Government claims.

Up to 4,000 Thurrock residents could benefit from the scheme but they must pre-register, with only one vehicle per resident at each address entitled to the discount.

The changes will come into effect from March 2014.

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said: "Local businessmen and women use the Dartford crossing regularly to make deliveries into Essex and Kent. They are the backbone of British industry and that is why I am keen to find new ways we can make their lives cheaper and easier.

"At a cost of just over 5p a day we will help thousands of small businesses keep their costs down as well as saving money for those who currently belong to the residents’ discount scheme."

Thurrock MP Jackie Doyle-Price, who has worked to lobby the Government for free tolls said: "I am delighted that the Secretary of State has been persuaded to make these concessions.

"I am particularly pleased that the residents discount scheme will be extended to small vans.

"This will help a large number of Thurrock residents who require a van for their work. Regular users of the crossing will benefit from the option to pay £20 a year for unlimited crossings. I am proud to have delivered these changes which will benefit hard working people across Thurrock."

The Transport Secretary also announced that motorists registered on the Local Resident Discount Scheme will only have to send in their vehicle documentation every two-years, rather than annually.

The existing scheme - which allows motorists to pay £10 for 50 trips a year and 20p for each crossing thereafter - will continue, and existing users of the scheme will be eligible for the new way to pay.