A Government transport minister has agreed to consider using the privately owned M6 Toll road to ease congestion and end gridlock on other roads throughout the West Midlands.
But owner of the road Midlands Expressway Ltd (MEL) has played down the suggestion that allowing free passage for lorries would help traffic flows elsewhere and confirmed it has not yet been approached with a proposal.
Conservative minister John Hayes said he would listen to pleas from Birmingham and the wider West Midlands to use the M6 Toll road to end the region’s traffic nightmare.
Slip road closures at Spaghetti Junction and the M6/M5 link, coupled with other roadworks throughout the city have brought misery fro drivers in recent weeks – and they are set to go on until August.
Birmingham City Council on Wednesday announced that it was building a coalition of councils and business leaders to lobby for it.
And, in a positive move transport, Minister John Hayes said: “We always want to make best use of our national assets, so will listen to any proposals which come forward. This government has invested record amounts in this country’s road network, after years of neglect under Labour.
“There will be short term inconvenience whilst work is ongoing; that’s inevitable. But the result will be greater capacity and quicker journey times for the people using it – whether that is commuters getting to work or businesses shipping goods as part of our growing economy.”
Council Labour cabinet member for transport Tahir Ali, speaking at the council’s monthly meeting, said: “It is nonsensical that we have this road asset under-used while there are major delays on the rest of the region’s roads.”
He suggested that as the Government was carrying out the M6 works they could compensate MEL for use of the toll road.
Two years ago there was a one month free trial on the M6 Toll for freight hauliers and, after trying the toll , road several opted to pay to use it.
But MEL chief executive Tom Fanning cast doubt on the idea that large numbers of lorries would jump from the M6 to the toll road if it was opened up.
He said: “The majority of haulage custom on the M6 toll is long haul traffic in order to avoid the Birmingham box and that custom is our market.
“This is not to be confused with hauliers who have a need to make deliveries along locations alongside the M6.
“These are the vast majority of such patronage which would have no need to use the toll road.”
He added: “MEL have not been approached directly by any third parties wishing to run a similar trial with hauliers on the M6 toll.”
According to Coun Ali such a move would take up to 10,000 HGVs a day off the M6, opening up space for an extra 30,000 cars. Currently just 2,000 lorries pay to use the toll motorway.