There was a very short section about LTC User Charges in the Design Refinement Consultation Guide on page 11 (or page 6/53 if you are viewing the pdf version online)
“It remains our proposal to apply a user charge for the Lower Thames Crossing, with a local resident discount scheme for those living in Thurrock and Gravesham. The level of the charge and the charging regime would replicate the approach applied on the Dartford Crossing. Therefore, the need for a Lower Thames Crossing charging consultation forum as suggested at statutory consultation is not considered necessary.”
In response to this we would question how the Local Resident Discount Scheme (LRDS) will operate when there is an incident at either crossing, and traffic will need to try and migrate to the other crossing.
- If the LTC were closed meaning all traffic is forced to use the Dartford Crossing, then would a resident from Gravesham with LRDS be charged to use the Dartford Crossing?
- Or if the Dartford Crossing were closed so all traffic is forced to use LTC, would a resident from Dartford with LRDS be charged to use the LTC?
- What about residents in Havering (Cranham, Upminster etc) who will have to suffer the impacts of LTC why will they not be offered LRDS?
- There have been calls for residents in Medway, Kent to be exempt from user charges too.
How does this distinction between LRDS for the two crossings assist in simplifying the decision making for the driver as to which crossing is easier for them to use? And how does this minimise the operational complexity between the two schemes (LTC and DartCharge)? These were both supposed benefits of the scheme according to the Supplementary Consultation just a few months ago. (Page 11 of the Supplementary Guide to Consultation)
Also since they are not planning or designing the LTC to consider how traffic will migrate between the two crossings when there is an incident, we all know it will certainly impact all local residents in the vicinity of and surrounding areas of both crossings for some distance just as we all suffer when there is an incident at the Dartford Crossing now, except this will be chaos on a far more widespread scale.
Tolls v charges
Since many have strong opinions on the charge for crossing at the Dartford Crossing, it is worth noting that while we can understand and agree that the original promise that was made was to remove the tolls at the Dartford Crossing, technically they have, as it is no longer tolls but a charge. Sorry to be pedantic but it is important that we are all aware and fighting this factually, so we want to share things like this to ensure people are aware of the technical facts, because there is no doubt HE and the Government will use facts against us if they can, so we need to understand the technicalities.
Something to also be aware of is that when it was a toll the money had to be used on the infrastructure the money was charged for, ie the crossing, but with a charge like the current DartCharge money goes into central funds to be spend on whatever they want. From what has been stated we believe this will the same with LTC.
On an environmental note, it is also suggested that if the charges were removed then there would be an increase in traffic using the crossing which would make congestion and pollution worse. If only they would admit that the poor design of the LTC which is not fit for purpose will also make congestion and pollution worse.
The idea of a percentage of the charges being for the affected communities
We have heard rumours and suggestion that it could be considered, or at very least we could (if we wish) request consideration of a percentage of the money charged to use the LTC be put back into the affected local communities in some way. This is something Thurrock Council have been discussing with HE, as per their Mitigation wish list (formally known as the Hatch report) that has been discussed in LTC Task Force Meetings.
TCAG’s opinion in short
We don’t feel adequate info or consideration has been given in regard to the LTC user charges. If we have to have LTC inflicted upon us we feel:
- local residents in all affected areas should be given the option of LRDS
- LRDS should not be crossing specific, so that local residents can use LRDS for either crossing.
- a percentage of the moneys charged to cross LTC should benefit the local communities which are affected.
Highways England have confirmed that it will only be the section of the LTC that incorporates the tunnel/crossing that would be chargeable. So for instance you could get on the LTC at the A13 and head north to the M25/A127 (or vice versa) and you would not need to pay the User Charge.
Dart Charge for Dartford Crossing
In May 2021 it was reported that HE had awarded contracts worth over £270m to two companies to continue operating the charging system at the Dartford Crossing.
The charging service will be operated by Conduent, an American company, and covers the day to day operation of the free-flow charging service, detecting and matching vehicle and customer records, managing accounts and processing payments.
Enforcement company emovis, a French company, will be in charge of enforcement activities for vehicles registered in the UK, such as issuing and handling penalty charge notices and payment processing.