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Thousands of homeless children this Christmas

More than 6,700 children in the South will be homeless this Christmas, according to new government figures, 13% more than last year.

Charity Shelter warns that the high cost of living is making it harder for families to keep a roof over their heads. Many of those affected will spend the festive period in cramped temporary accommodation, such as hostels or bed and breakfasts.

  1. David Johns (@davidjohns_itv)

First rush hour at "freeflow" Dartford Crossing

The Dartford Crossing in Kent faced its first major challenge this morning since collection of tolls at the site was removed over the weekend and replaced by a numberplate recognition charging system.

Critics say the charges should be abolished too - and many agree that the only real way to smooth out traffic over the Thames is to build another crossing entirely. But Monday's rush hour largely went without a hitch as "free flow charging" came into effect.

David Johns reports, speaking to businessman Chris Billing, Dartford Crossing Project Manager Nigel Gray, Natalie Chapman from the Freight Transport Association, and Dartford MP Gareth Johnson.

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Dartford Crossing upgrade: online payments replace toll booths

Drivers using the Dartford Crossing are being reminded that a new toll payment system has been put in place. Cash will no longer be accepted at toll booths - instead payment must be made online or at selected shops.

We speak to Nigel Gray from the Highways Agency.

Price increase for Dartford crossing as toll booths removed

Today marks the first day drivers no longer need to stop at toll booths to pay to use the Dartford crossing. The busy commuter route in Kent has instead opted for online payments - similar to the London congestion scheme. It's hoped the change will reduce congestion and journey times however, the price to use the crossing has gone up. Nashreen Issa has more.

Dartford toll booth removal begins

Drivers will no longer have to stop at toll booths Credit: PA

Work began at 6am today to remove 27 toll booths on the southern end of the Dartford Crossing.

The booths on Britain's busiest motorway are being scrapped and replaced with an electronic payment system.

The changes at the Dartford Crossing on the M25 east of London are designed to improve traffic flow.

But the removal of the 27 toll booths at the southern end of the crossing will result in roadworks until March 2015.

And car drivers using the crossing will from today face a higher daily charge - with the fee, also payable by phone or post as well as online, going up from £2 to £2.50. Charges are also rising for goods vehicles.

It's hoped the changes will ease congestion Credit: PA

The Highways Agency is hoping for a minimum of congestion at the start of the new system.

An agency spokesman said: "We're starting at 6am on a Sunday when traffic will be comparatively light and there will be plenty of signs up to tell people about the new arrangement.

"Monday morning will be more of a test but we are trying to do everything we can to let people know about the changes."

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Charges suspended on the Dartford Crossing

The Dartford Crossing is being modified to allow for the creation of the new 'Dart Charge' scheme

The Highways Agency has temporarily suspended toll charges on the Dartford Crossing southbound until further notice - because of congestion.

The decision was made just before 10am this morning to help ease the severe traffic that has built up during roadworks taking place to introduce the new Dart Charge scheme. The Highways Agency said it also wants to reduce the risk of minor collisions in queuing traffic. The organisation said: - 'We are doing all we possibly can to help keep traffic moving.'.

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