A TORY MP has urged the Government to delay increased toll charges at Dartford Crossing until hi-tech measures are introduced to ease congestion.

John Baron, MP for Billericay and Basildon pressed transport minister Mike Penning over the issue during Commons question time.

The tolls are due to rise in 2011 from £1.50 to £2, then in 2012 from £2 to £2.50.

Ministers have justified this by claiming extra money raised from the increase will fund measurs to cut congestion, such as removing the toll gates so traffic moves freely. A new crossing will also be considered, funded with toll money.

Vehicles would be recorded with an automated number plate recognition system, in a similar way to how the congestion charge works in London, and drivers can then pay online or on the phone.

However, Mr Baron believes that the new number plate recognition technology should be tried and tested first, to see how effective it is in reducing congestion.

He said: "The Government is right to consider the introduction of automatic number platerecognition technology at the Dartford Crossing to ease congestion.

"Therefore, given the crossing makes £45 million profit a year, would it not be better to see how effective this new technology was before increasing toll charges to help fund a new crossing?"

Mr Penning responded that he understood Mr Baron had been a long time campaigner to reduce Dartford Crossing toll charges.

However, investment was needed for the new crossing, which would be raised through the increase.