DRIVERS were left fuming because tolls at the Dartford Crossing were not lifted, despite tailbacks for more than three hours after a rush-hour crash.
All lanes from Essex to Kent were closed on Monday after a van and motorbike collided on the QE2 bridge at about 6pm – meaning motorists were left stranded in sizzling heat.
But the tolls were not lifted to clear the backlog.
Traffic on the Kent side also stretched for miles when one of the tunnels was used for southbound traffic that would normally use the bridge.
Jackie Doyle-Price, MP for Thurrock, said: “The driving conditions caused misery for drivers and it adds insult to injury when drivers are still required to pay a toll to cross when some had been sitting in queues for up to three hours. It is a queue tax, nothing more.”
One driver said: “To sit in miles and miles of tailbacks and then see the tolls still in operation and adding to the misery is beyond madness.
“I told the toll operator I thought it was crazy and he agreed. I moved a mile in one hour and yet the tolls were still in operation – it’s just greed.”
TheHighways Agency suspends charges at the crossing when traffic reaches back to Junction 28 of the M25, the turn-off for the A12, and is travelling at less than 10mph.
Spokesman Andrew Broughton said: “The criteria set out have been approved by ministers.
“Traffic is always monitored, and if the target point is reached, the tolls are opened and charges suspended straight away.
“We sometimes get stop-and-start traffic, such as on Monday, when pockets were moving.”
The latest hold-up came as fears were raised that plans to introduce a cashless toll system could cost millions in unpaid charges.
Barriers are set to be removed from October next year and motorists will be charged through number-plate recognition cameras.
Natalie Chapman, of the Freight Transport Association, said a similar system used for the London congestion charge was already causing problems with unpaid fees.
She said: “I think the situation is going to be far worse for the Highways Agency, potentially, given the very high volumes of foreign-registered vehicles using its networks.”
The Highways Agency said it was working on systems to detect foreign vehicles and a European debt recovery agency could be used