How we use Cookies

Centro calls for Midlands roads to be sold to fund new projects

Region's transport authority pushes government for radical toll schemes to raise capital

M6 Toll

Motorists could face new charges under proposals from the West Midlands' transport authority to build roads and sell or lease them to the private sector.

The West Midlands passenger transport authority Centro, which represents Birmingham, Coventry, Dudley, Sandwell, Solihull, Walsall and Wolverhampton, issued the plea in a paper submitted to the House of Commons Transport Committee.

It warned the region suffered from "congestion, air pollution, unreliable journeys and hindrance to markets" because of a poor road network, costing the economy £2.3 billion a year.

Centro said the Government could build new roads and then sell a concession to a private firm, allowing it to operate the road - and profit from it - for a set period of time.

Money raised by selling the concession could then be pumped back into the transport budget to pay for new projects, Centro said.

MPs were looking into ways more private sector investment could be pumped into the roads network.

The transport authority urged the Government to repeat the success of the high speed rail line running from London under the Channel Tunnel to France.

This was built with public funds and a concession, giving effective ownership of the line for 30 years, was sold in 2010 to a consortium of Canadian investors for £2.1 billion.

But the authority cautioned against repeating the experience of the M6 Toll, warning that the Midland toll motorway opened in 2003 had been a failure.

The motorway, running from the NEC near Solihull to Wolverhampton, had been built by the private sector but has "not performed as originally intended", Centro said.

It warned tolls were too high and had been set at a level designed to allow owner Midland Expressway to service its debts "rather than be aligned to road user needs and encouraging greater usage".

Centro told the inquiry: "The M6 Toll only carries approximately half the 70,000 vehicles per day the road was originally envisaged to carry. In comparison, the M6 carries 125,000 vehicles per day."

It added: "The second model is to use the concession model once the strategic infrastructure has been built and opened."

This would mean the Government built the road and opened it and a concession was then sold to the private sector.

"This model would require the public sector to pump prime the infrastructure with the private sector leasing or even buying the infrastructure thereafter."

Action is needed urgently to improve Midland roads, Centro said.

Highlighting Government estimates that traffic across the UK could increase by anything from 23 per cent to 76 per cent by 2040, Centro said: "The West Midlands would be extremely concerned at the consequence of even just a 23.6 per cent increase in traffic on the M6 through the metropolitan area.

"Such traffic growth would mean major impacts to our economy, air quality and other pollution and thus to our residents and businesses."

And it warned: "The West Midlands still suffers from congestion, air pollution, unreliable journeys and hindrance to markets which has national as well as local implications.

"Such road congestion presently costs the West Midlands £2.3 billion per annum whilst as many as seven per cent of all deaths in the West Midlands are linked to poor air quality with the M6 recognised to be the largest single source of poor air quality emissions in the metropolitan area."

The MPs heard evidence from a range of other organisations that called on the Government to consider some sort of road charging, including EEF which represents manufacturers.

But transport minister Robert Goodwill told the inquiry the Government had no plans to include road pricing, beyond a levy for HGV vehicles which has already been introduced.

However, the Committee said: "Investment in the road network will require new funding streams. This is a challenge that must be addressed.

"However, a consensus would be required to introduce any road user charging scheme across the strategic road network as an alternative to road taxation and the many issues involved would have to be resolved."

 

Journalists

Graeme Brown
Regional Head of Business
Enda Mullen
Business Reporter
Cillian O’ Brien
Business Reporter
Jon Griffin
Business Reporter
Alison Jones
Features writer
Ben Hurst
News Editor
Jonathan Walker
Political Editor