A DECISION on where a new Thames crossing will land might not be made until AFTER free-flow tolling has been introduced.
The Government is "minded" to wait and see how the new system, which will be in effect by Spring 2015, helps with congestion before making a decision on where a new river crossing should go.
That was the claim of MP Stephen Metcalfe at a public meeting held in Orsett last night.
He told an audience of more than 200 residents, worried about the impact a new crossing would have in Thurrock, that the Government has not yet chosen between Option A or Option C.
Stephen Metcalfe speaking at last night's meeting at Orsett Hall
Option A would see a new crossing built next to the QEII Bridge, while Option C would land between Tilbury Fort and West Tilbury, with a new road then carving through green belt land to meet Junction 29 of the M25.
Mr Metcalfe, the East Thurrock and South Basildon MP, said: "I can say that no final decisions have been made. Neither option on the table holds more weight than the other.
"The minister is now minded to see whether free flow tolling has a significant impact before making a decision. That comes off the back of my meeting with the Prime Minister."
The Government had previously said a new crossing would be needed regardless of free flow tolling being introduced.
The change of heart comes as more details emerged about the free flow tolling scheme for the current Dartford Crossing.
The remote payment system - which comes into effect in October this year - will work much like the London congestion charge zone, with motorists being able to pay for use of the crossing online, by phone, text, or in some shops.
Later this month, the Highways Agency will begin putting up signs that tell motorists they are entering the "charging zone". These will be covered until the new system is switched on.
A significant amount of work will be done to change the road layout on the Kent side of the crossing. This will begin once the new payment system is in place later this year.
Nigel Gray, Highways Agency Project Director, said: “The changes we are introducing at Dartford will reduce congestion and ease traffic flow at this vital transport link.
“Work to date has been progressing well behind-the-scenes. Now we are ready to start on the road. This advance work has been carefully planned to minimise disruption to road users and so will largely be carried out overnight when traffic flows are lowest.
How the new signs will look - the Highways Agency will begin putting them up on roads around the crossing later this month. They will be covered up until October, when the remote system comes into play.
“Due to the extent of road layout changes required at the crossing, the main construction work to remove the existing plazas and barriers can only start once the new payments arrangements are in place this autumn; this too will be planned with drivers very much in mind.”
How the road will look - without toll booths - once finished. Work will start in October and be finished by the Spring.
The signage work will take place overnight on the A282, M25, A13, M20. On the A1306, A2, Bob Dunn Way and Crossways Boulevard it will take place during off-peak daytime hours.