A CONSULTATION into hiking up tolls on the Dartford Crossing twice by spring has launched.

Roads minister Mike Penning said the Government is committed to reducing congestion on the QEII bridge by exploring free-flow charging and additional crossing capacity, but said motorists will have to fund any improvements.

Tomorrow the Highways Agency will start a six month trial of suspending toll charges on the crossing in one or both directions when an emergency creates severe congestion.

Speaking about the need to increase charges, Mr Penning said: “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.

"Unless urgent action is taken, this situation will only get worse, with traffic expected to increase. That is unacceptable.

"It is clear that in the absence of the proposed increased revenues, we would not have been able to prioritise improvements which will benefit millions of road users. We are committed to introducing free-flow charging to reduce congestion and explore provision of new additional crossing capacity.”

The Government announced its intention to increase tolls in its spending review last year.

The proposed charges would see the toll for cars increasing from £1.50 up to £2 later this year, then up to £2.50 by spring next year, and heavy goods vehicles, currently charged £3.70, would rise to £6 by spring.