Toll roads don’t work in the UK

M6 Toll

M6 Toll. Photo by: Eoin Gardiner

If you run a car there are plenty of costs to take into account. As well as your car leasing, contract hire or personal finance charges you also have the cost of insurance and road tax. You have to repair and service your vehicle on a regular basis. And, you have to fill it up with fuel.

Ten years ago, a further cost was levied upon drivers in the Midlands with the opening of the UK’s first toll road – the M6 Toll motorway. Now, though, a report has found that toll roads simply don’t work. Keep reading to find out more.

Toll road attracting under a third of predicted users

To mark the tenth anniversary of the opening of the M6 toll road, the Campaign for Better Transport has published a report into the effectiveness of the toll road. And, the group are scathing about how little the road has benefited Britain’s drivers.

The M6 Toll – Ten Years On found that since a peak in traffic in 2006/7, the number of motorists using the M6 toll has fallen steadily year on year and has never come close to predicted levels of 75,000 vehicles per day. In 2012, the average for all the count points was just 29,313 vehicles per day, 24 per cent below number of vehicles on the road in 2007.

The critical report also found that the road 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, equivalent to 1,700 more vehicles per day.

Sian Berry, Campaign for Better Transport’s roads and sustainable transport campaigner, said: “Toll roads don’t work and the experience with the M6 Toll proves as much. Despite massive environmental damage and increased noise and air pollution the supposed benefits for drivers haven’t materialised.

“This road has helped no one, not local people, not drivers and certainly not the company who own it. We’re glad to see the Government has finally paid attention to the disastrous experience of the M6 Toll and abandoned plans to toll the A14 bypass.”

While the cost of new cars, cheap car leasing and dealer finance may have fallen over recent years, travelling on the M6 toll road remains expensive. Drivers with a standard car pay £5.50 per journey to use the road on a weekday (£3.80 at night) while coaches and HGVs pay double this fee.

Chris Crean from West Midlands Friends of the Earth said: “The focus then and now has been for inter-urban journeys across the countryside where it is easy to acquire land and lay tarmac. This has failed to address the real problem: traffic and car dependency in our unavoidably space-constrained towns and cities. We have not dealt with this fundamental issue.

“We can and should invest in all the viable alternatives to ensure we all have better quality of life, reduce car dependency and use the planning system to create truly vibrant and sustainable places in which to live. This would have seen enhanced bus, rail and metro investments, as well as encouraging walking and cycling across the west midlands conurbation, not an orbital road.”

As well as being critical of the effectiveness of the M6 toll, the report goes on to recommend a number of alternative options to large road-building projects that demonstrate better value for money. These include ‘smarter choices’ programmes of travel planning and traffic reduction and a wide range of rail, bus and active travel infrastructure projects.


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