THE number of vehicles using the Dartford Crossing has fallen to the lowest level since 1998.

New statistics from the Highways Agency reveal that just over 49 million vehicles travelled between Essex and Kent between April 2012 and March 2013. This was down one-and-a-half million vehicles to the previous year and only 700,000 more than at the same time over fifteen years ago.

The figures also said the average amount of vehicle to make the river crossing in 2012/13 was 134,732 as opposed to 138,760 in 2011/12. The day that saw the most traffic was August 31 2012 when 165,930 made the trip.

Jackie Doyle-Price, MP for Thurrock, said the figures showed increasing the level of tolls reduces demand for using the crossing.

“The number of cars on our roads is not going to get any less and if Thurrock is going to really become the logistics hub of the UK we need a road infrastructure which is fit for purpose.”

The tolls have been increased twice in the last five years, first in November 2008 where the price for cars rose from £1 to £1.50 and last October where the cost for cars rose to £2.

Last month Roads minister Stephen Hammond confirmed that barriers would be taken down at the toll booths next October to ease congestion.

The Mayor of London Boris Johnson said on a recent visit to Thurrock that a Lower Thames Crossing, aimed at reducing congestion at the Dartford Crossing, which would connect the M2 with the A13 and the M25 between junctions 29 and 30 -‘had attractions’.

Ms Doyle-Price added: “The battle still to win is to get free tolls for Thurrock residents and to reopen the consultation on the lower Thames crossing to look at options downstream. We need to build an infrastructure which is fit for this century and which will support jobs and growth in Thurrock.”

A Highways Agency spokesperson said: "While the amount of traffic using the Dartford Thurrock River Crossing has decreased slightly over the last few years, traffic flows are expected to increase by a fifth over the next 30 years, due to the anticipated development in the Thames Gateway region.

“Meanwhile, the Crossing still operates over capacity: it was designed to handle up to 135,000 vehicle movements each day, but it is not uncommon for 160,000 to occur."