Eight arrested on fuel theft charges

Eight men have been arrested and more than 55,000 litres of fuel seized in a series of raids in the North West and Northern Ireland on a suspected smuggling ring. 

HMRC officers searched one commercial address and four domestic addresses in Knowsley, Liverpool, Manchester and 

St Helens on 3 February, alongside searches of six domestic addresses in counties Antrim, Armagh and Down. All the fuel was found at the commercial address. Cash, computers, business records, a truck and a trailer were seized in the operation. 

An HMRC spokeswoman said she could not confirm where the smuggled fuel had originated or how it had entered the UK. 

Seven of the men have been bailed until June; the eighth was released. 

No charges have yet been brought but investigations are continuing.

Dartford toll enforcement generates 57% revenue rise

New enforcement measures brought into operation as part of the introduction of the Dart Charge at the Dartford Crossing in November 2014 helped generate a 57% rise in revenue in the year to 31 March 2015, Highways England has said. 

Total income from the crossing amounted to £145.9m, compared with £92.4m in the previous year.

Highways England’s latest financial report said the £53m increase was largely down to enforcement management measures introduced through the Dart Charge scheme, as well as an increase in crossings. Of the total, £64.3m came from toll operation and £81.5m from the Dart Charge. 

The rise in income was offset, however, by a £65m increase in expenditure to £125.5m. Highways England said this was down to infrastructure spending for the Dart Charge scheme – including the removal of toll booths, road realignment and the introduction of sensors and other traffic control measures to deal with HGVs. It was also down to its policy of waiving first penalty charges where vehicle owners paid the normal charge and other irrecoverable penalty charges. 

Its report showed nearly £64m of spending on the Dart Charge and nearly £40m of impairment to income. Net proceeds for the year came to £20.4m (2014: £32.1m), therefore. 

Malcolm Bingham, head of road network management policy at the FTA, said the rise in revenue at the crossing was not surprising in view of the additional enforcement measures and the increase in charges brought about when the Dart Charge came into effect. 

While early problems with the Dart Charge system have now been largely resolved, added Bingham, the FTA remained concerned about delays caused by northbound trucks being in the wrong lane on the approach because of the “counterintuitive” requirement for them to keep right for the larger bore tunnel. 

Tackling non-payment by trucks registered outside the UK was also a big issue, said Bingham.