Simon Harriyott

Re-inventing the toll

One of the side-effects of being a developer is that I often find myself "debugging" things outside of the IDE, or the computer itself. Recently I went somewhere that involved driving across the Dartford crossing on the M25*. There's a tunnel under the River Thames for northbound traffic, and a huge bridge for southbound traffic. There are toll gates for both directions south of the river.

As I was in a long, southbound queue (caused by the toll) on my return journey, I started thinking about why there were two tolls in operation at the same time, and two resultant traffic jams, and what to do about it. I think I've come up with a way to ease the jams.

The obvious first choice is to dispense with the tolls altogether, since the bridge paid for itself in 2003. The government aren't going to do that though.

I reckon that almost everyone that uses the bridge in one direction uses it again in the opposite direction very shortly afterwards. In my case, it was about 7 hours after. Very few people make journeys from their home or place of work and don't return via the same route in the opposite direction.

On my journey, I had two toll transactions, of £1 each way. I think it would be better to have one transaction of £2 instead, that would cover both journeys. In this way, one set of tolls could be closed, and allow traffic to flow freely through, removing one traffic jam altogether.

Depending on the traffic flow, the tolls could be changed over to reduce an extremely long tailback. If this happened in the middle of the day, then some people may have to pay twice, and others nothing at all. Although this doesn't sound fair, it should even out over time.

Should I suggest this to Boris, or is it a silly idea?

* Actually, it isn't the M25 at the crossing, it's the A282. I presume this is so that learner drivers can cross the river without going into town, as they're not allowed on motorways.
2 June 2008