With the exception of the Newbury by-pass, which attracted protests by Swampy and his environmental warriors, the M6 Toll remains the most controversial British motorway scheme of the past 20 years.
Planned originally in 1980 as a publicly-funded Birmingham Northern Relief Road, the 27-mile route from Coleshill in Warwickshire to Cannock in Staffordshire was intended to take through traffic away from the M6, Europe's busiest motorway.
In 1989, following a public inquiry, the then Conservative Government announced that the BNRR would be the UK's first privately built and operated motorway, with motorists paying a toll for the privilege of using the completed road.
Although it was not clear at the time, the decision marked the birth of Whitehall's fascination with delivering public projects through Private Finance Initiatives. Midland Expressway, which won the contract to build the M6 Toll, has a concession to run the road for 53 years, ending in 2054.
In return for taking the commercial risk of maintaining and building the road, at a cost of £905 million, Midland Expressway retains the absolute right to set the level of tolls and, of course, to pocket the profits.
In May 2003, Dennis Eagar, a senior director of Midland Expressway's parent company, was forced to resign after he revealed in a media interview the wide-ranging powers available to the operators of the M6 Toll.
Mr Eagar described the road as a "monopoly" which had been cheap for his company to acquire.
"We can put up the tolls by whatever we like," he said, before adding that, as the M6 through Birmingham became more and more congested, the toll road would behave "more and more like a monopoly".
Midland Expressway took the Government at its word. Highways Agency reports made available to The Birmingham Post under the Freedom of Information Act show that the agency was not consulted when the toll-rate was first set and then revised upwards last summer.
The documents also show that the perception in the 1980s, encouraged by the Government, that the road would take heavy lorries off the M6, was well wide of the mark. Only seven per cent of traffic using the M6 Toll are HGVs.
Information from the Highways Agency raises questions about the targets, if any, set by the Department for Transport for use of the M6 Toll. Figures published in 1993 show projections based on the year 2011 of between 36,500 and 54,500 vehicles a day using the toll road.
The upper figure has already been beaten on a number of occasions, although usage for last month put the average at 45,868. Midland Expressway, for one, believes it is delivering what was required.
Approval in principle for the M6 Toll was given in 1997, following a U-turn from the new Labour Government which, when in opposition, had vowed to scrap the scheme. Ministers said it was too late and would cost too much in financial compensation to pull the rug, although in retrospect it is easy to see now that the M6 Toll fitted perfectly with Labour's PFI ambitions for public sector capital projects.
The change of heart infuriated the collection of environ-mental groups, including Friends of the Earth and the CPRE, which had come together under the umbrella group Alliance against the BNRR. A subsequent legal challenge by the Alliance at the end of 1997 failed.
Labour's decision proved particularly embarrassing for North Warwickshire MP Mike O'Brien, a Government Minister, who during the 1997 General Election campaign had stressed his opposition to the BNRR and Labour's commitment to scrap the project.
Transport Minister Lord Whitty was effusive in his praise for the road, when announcing the final go-ahead in September 2000. Midland Expressway was to be congratulated for putting together a very complex scheme so quickly and efficiently, he declared.
The M6 Toll finally opened for business in December 2003 - 23 years after proposals for a motorway relief road to the north of Birmingham had first been published by the Department for Transport.
By the end of 2004, Midland Expressway announced that more than 16 million vehicles had used the road. Earlier in the year, a discounted toll for lorries had been introduced in an attempt to persuade HGV operators to use to road.
Labour is now looking at the possibility of building the country's second toll motorway, again to relieve the M6, from Cannock to Manchester.