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M6 Toll deal for emergency use could be struck

West Midlands transport bosses and government ministers agree to form new working group to tackle jams following last week's horrendous tailbacks

M6 Toll
Could the M6 Toll yet be opened up in times of major emergencies?

A deal to open up the M6 Toll road in a major traffic emergency could now be struck after government ministers and regional transport bosses agreed to form a new working group to tackle congestion.

A fatal car accident in the early hours of Thursday morning brought the M6 northbound to a standstill between junctions five and six last week, having a knock-on effect on surrounding roads and other parts of the Midlands' motorway network.

Among those affected was the Government's Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin who was on his way to Birmingham to launch the new offices of HS2 in Two Snowhill.

The resulting congestion meant some motorists were stuck in queues for seven hours while the 26-mile M6 Toll Road, which costs £5.50 per car to use, was largely free flowing.

It led to renewed calls for the emergency services and transport authorities to be able to open the road during serious congestion.

Mr McLoughlin said last week he was "happy" to examine whether the M6 Toll could be used in such circumstances in light of the massive delays.

The new West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) has been in talks with the Government over freeing up the toll road but it appears that idea has been rejected the Department for Transport.

WMCA vice-chairman and Sandwell Council leader Darren Cooper said that, in the wake of the tragic accident, the Government had agreed to set up a working group to look at traffic congestion in the West Midlands.

"Every time something happens, the whole place comes to a standstill. It is no use being the country's 'Engine for Growth' if our arteries are regularly blocked," he added.

Coun Cooper said removing the toll would be against government policy but there could be a way of setting a zero toll during major incidents.

"If we can get traffic passing through the area onto the toll road it alleviates the issues here," he said.

West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson has also written to the Transport Secretary, calling for urgent action.

He said: "It is totally unsatisfactory a vital part of the nation's infrastructure should be congested for such a significant amount of time. It is clear that there are wider issues.

"Not only do prolonged tailbacks on our motorways cause serious inconvenience to motorists, and significant damage to the local and national economy, there are also health hazards associated with people being kept in a confined, cold spaces for long periods of time."

Meanwhile, former Birmingham City Council deputy leader Paul Tilsley has called on the WMCA to open talks with the owner of the M6 Toll, Midland Expressway, and offer it a day rate to open up the road in emergencies.

He said: "This could be a quick and simple solution, if there was good will from Midlands Expressway. The toll road could then start to do what its initial name, the Birmingham Northern Relief Road, implies."



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