A RAFT of changes have been called for after the two recent closures of the QEII Bridge caused absolute chaos on the roads around Lakeside.

Ensignbus, Thurrock’s leading bus firm which runs 15 services in the borough, is demanding the Highways Authority sort out problems.

High winds forced the crossing to shut down for long periods on Monday, December 23, and Monday, December 30. This led to horrendous delays of up to six hours around the shopping centre.

Ensignbus bosses want to see: *Conditions for suspending charging at the tolls to be revised to take into account the impact of the traffic on local roads.

*Enforceable box junctions put in at Junction 31 of the M25 to prevent traffic diverting down the slip road past Thurrock Services and back onto the M25 and to stop lorries blocking the roundabout.

*Electronic road information signs put up at certain key points in Thurrock to help people make better choices on where to go when the crossing has problems.

As well as causing passengers huge inconvenience, these two closures cost Ensignbus £4,000 in staff, fuel costs and lost passenger revenue.

Paul Dickson, customer services manager for Ensignbus said: “We always deploy additional resources when traffic gets bad in the area and this costs us extra for, sometimes, little affect as things are so bad.

“The Highways Agency say it is able to monitor traffic build up on the A282 and M25 but clearly they do not or are not able to monitor the traffic impact on local roads. Most of the traffic diverts off the M25 to avoid the backlog and then creates a bigger problem on the Thurrock local road network.”

The bridge’s closure over Christmas led furious residents to question why the barriers at the Dartford Tunnel tolls were not constantly opened and the tolls lifted to improve traffic flow.

A spokesman for the Highways Agency said the existing barriers would never be lifted permanently as they control traffic.

He said as part of the design process for free-flow charging - introduced last October - the authority is reviewing current arrangements.

Thurrock Gazette: Traffic at Lakeside shopping centre

Currently queues need to be 10 miles long on the M25 for charges to be lifted, which they were not.

He said: “The intent of the charge suspension protocol is to provide congestion relief in and around Dartford and Thurrock, not just on the M25.

“In order to apply the protocol consistently we monitor traffic build up on the M25 as consistent real time traffic monitoring is available for this route.”