The underused M6 Toll Road could be opened up for free to drivers stuck in congested traffic on the M6.
Toll road operators Midland Expressway have reportedly offered to clear the path to help relieve traffic jams on the M6 if the Government releases it from its commitment to part-finance the M54 link road.
It was originally hoped that the Toll Road would carry around 74,000 vehicles each day but even at its peak in 2006 only 48,000 vehicles were using it.
Latest figures show that on average a total of 34,360 vehicles were using it each day for the first three months of this year. The poor traffic figures have led to cashflow issues for the road, and are thought to have led operator Midland Expressway Ltd (MEL) to attempting to renegotiate its debt burden.
The company has debts of £1.03 billion, which mature in 2015, and as part of its 50-year concession agreement would have to pay more than £100 million towards the costs of the M54 link road if the Government decides to proceed with it.
The revelations have led to a call from UKIP transport spokesman Mike Nattrass for the privately-run road to be nationalised to avoid Midland Expressway racking up further debts.
Mr Nattrass, a member of the EU’s Transport and Tourism Committee, said: “MEL is in major debt and motorists continue to shun the road to escape the crippling toll charges, making matters worse.
“The M6 Toll was actually designed to be a relief road for the congested M6 motorway, to save further widening costs; the Toll Road has totally failed to divert traffic, causing taxpayers significantly more public investment in the M6.
“We cannot afford these expensive upgrades to the M6 to preserve the Toll as an under-utilised highway for the rich or from its inevitable failure.
“This Government believes in, and supports, privatisation and will fudge this issue with MEL. Both have their heads in the sand and should take pro-motorist action by putting the road into public ownership.”
The crisis follows huge losses racked up by Midland Expressway since the Toll Road opened in 2003. MEL has refused to comment on the reports.