More than 150 million vehicle journey transactions have been completed on the M6 Toll since it was opened a decade ago, but campaigners claim it has offered no real benefit to most drivers.
The £900 million road, the first pay-to-drive motorway in Britain, was designed to be the answer to soaring levels of traffic, infuriating tailbacks and congestion that choked both the environment and the economy.
Now the Campaign for Better Transport has published “The M6 Toll – ten years on,” a report which finds the road has produced no net benefit for drivers while failing to ease bottlenecks on the main M6.
The report revealed that since peaking in 2006/7, use of the road is steadily falling and has never come close to its forecast 75,000 vehicles a day.
Its busiest day was in May 2004 when it attracted 66,295 vehicles. The study claims it is operating 27 per cent below the number of vehicles using the stretch – officially known as the M6 Northern Relief Road. However, a deal struck with the Road Haulage Association to allow some lorries to use the stretch for free has resulted in 1,000 extra journeys a day.
But it has not relieved problems on the parallel M6. Between 2006 and 2012 average daily traffic levels on the un-tolled motorway increased by 1.5 per cent (1,700 more vehicles per day).
Sian Berry, Campaign for Better Transport’s roads and sustainable transport expert, said: “Toll roads don’t work and the experience with the M6 Toll proves as much.”
Critics say it is now time to seriously consider taking the toll road into public ownership. But Tom Fanning, chief executive of operator Midland Expressway, said the road had been a success despite lower-than-anticipated vehicle numbers.
He claimed customer satisfaction surveys showed it was an appreciated alternative to the main M6 around Birmingham.
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