COUNCIL leader John Kent has called for changes to the Dartford Crossing tolls before a new one is considered ahead of a Parliamentary enquiry into the issue.

The council will be presenting evidence to an enquiry held by the House of Commons’ transport committee into strategic river crossings while calling on the government to think again about its plans for a Lower Thames Crossing.

The new crossing, which was proposed in 2009 by the Department for Transport, would be built either as an additional to the existing site, connecting Swanscombe and Tilbury Docks, or the M2 and M20 further downstream.

However, Mr Kent said other ways of reducing congestion at the present crossing need to be looked at before an additional crossing is deemed necessary, including electronic free flow tolling, which does not require motorists to stop at a booth.

He said: “We’ve been saying for years that the effects of free-flow tolls should be looked at very carefully before the need to build a new crossing was decided; we’ve been saying that the effects of a fully-financed redesign of both Junctions 30 and 31 should also be taken into account.

“To support our case we’ll need to show how strong local opinion is, so I would again urge everyone who has not signed our online petition to do so. We’ve very nearly reached a thousand signatories, we need a lot more – go to the council’s website and follow the links from Travel and Transport.”

He added that, if the government was determined to construct a new bridge, it should consider doing so further east of the present plans and in full consideration of the environmental effects of another crossing at Thurrock.

He said: “We have three crossings here and the plan is still for there to be a fourth.

“We have had a ‘strategic’ crossing since the early 1960s and to be honest we’re fed up to the back teeth with the congestion and the pollution it causes.

“We’re fed up with the delays local people have to factor into their day-to-day lives and we’ve had enough.”