by business editor Trevor Sturgess
Hiking tolls at the Dartford crossing would cost jobs, small firms have warned.
The Government has announced a consultation exercise that could see tolls for motorists rising to £2.50, for two-axle vehicles to £3 and for heavy goods vehicles to £6 by Spring 2012.
The controversial proposal has been denounced by a wide range of users, including the Federation of Small Businesses.
Neville Gaunt, chairman of the FSB North Kent Branch, said: "Many of the proposals being put forward by the Highways Agency are very worrying and our initial view is that many of those suggestions would cost Kent businesses many thousands of extra pounds a year and would lead to job losses in the county."
The FSB would be working with the Local Enterprise Partnership on a response to the "worst excesses" of the proposals and get a better deal for businesses.
Mr Penning said the crossing was used by more vehicles than it was designed for, leading to lengthy delays, frustration and damage to the economy.
"Unless urgent action is taken, this situation will only get worse, with traffic expected to increase. That is unacceptable."
Mr Gaunt also criticised the proposal to lift charges if queues reach 10 miles, saying that would take the queue back to Junction 4.
That was not good enough and the FSB would campaign for barriers to be lifted when the queue reached Junction 1.
A six-month trial started last week.