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Ten years on: the Government should learn the lessons of M6 Toll

12 Dec 2013 at 14:49

As Britain’s first privately funded tolled motorway celebrates its tenth anniversary the RAC is urging the Government to learn the lessons from the road failing to reach its full potential.
Saturday 14th December is exactly 10 years since the 27 miles of the M6 Toll was fully opened to traffic, giving motorists the opportunity to avoid a heavily congested section of the original M6 at peak times of the day.

Running from junction 3a on the M6 around the North East of the West Midlands re-joining the M6 at junction 11a, the toll road has seen prices for cars rise 175% from £2 to £5.50 over the decade while motorbike tolls have gone up 200% and vans 120% to £11. Only HGV prices have remained comparable to 2003, increasing just 10% to £11 (see table below for more information). To put these increases in perspective, the Retail Price Index only rose by 37%1 over the same period.

At the time of opening the M6 Toll was the largest UK road contract, worth £900 million. Its owners and operators Midland Expressway Limited claim the road is the easiest and most reliable route through the Midlands and that more than 68 million vehicles have used it since opening.

The RAC, however, believes the motorway has not been as successful as it should have been. Figures for July to September 2013 show an average of 44,462 vehicles2 used the M6 Toll every day, a 13% increase on the same period in 2012, but an 18% decrease compared to the third quarter of 2004 when the average daily figure stood at 54,2373.

Since the M6 Toll opened in 2003 Department for Transport average traffic flow volumes for the M6 south of the M62 junction (west of Manchester down to its start east of Coventry) have risen 10% from 102,000 vehicles a day in 2004 to 112,000 a day in 2012.4

RAC technical director David Bizley said: “As the M6 Toll is the first tolled motorway scheme in the UK entirely designed, built, financed and operated by the private sector, it has sadly become a great example of how to do the right thing in the wrong way.

“It could so easily have paved the way for other similar schemes to be constructed, but unfortunately it hasn’t lived up to its potential, a point which the RAC thinks the Government should recognise and learn lessons from.

“This is no doubt due to the substantial increase in toll prices over the years which have made it impractical to use on a regular basis. As a result we have a motorway which functions well as a road, but that isn’t as well used as it we would like, a fact borne out by the 18% drop in average daily usage as well as the overall rise in traffic using the M6 proper.

“Most HGVs still cannot afford to use it and still take the old route, and local residents cannot afford to use it for relatively short journeys. All in all it has to go down as a lost opportunity to ease congestion properly and demonstrate how tolling could be utilised to finance important road building.”

Ten years of M6 tolls – 2003 to 2013

While standard Monday to Friday (6am to 11pm) tolls for cars have increased from £2 in the 2003 to £5.50 today, the price for HGVs has been changed consistently over the years from £10 in 2003 to £11 now. In fact, in 2004 the price for HGVs was reduced to £6 and then gradually raised over the years until 2010 when it returned to the 2003 level of £10.

Date Class 1 (e.g. motorbike) Class 2 (e.g. car) Class 3 (e.g. car with trailer) Class 4 (e.g. van) Class 5 (e.g. HGV)
Dec 2003 £1.00 £2.00 £5.00 £5.00 £10.00
Dec 2013 £3.00 £5.50 £10.00 £11.00 £11.00
% increase 200% 175% 100% 120% 10%

For current M6 toll prices across all classes of vehicle and times of day visit:

The M6 toll will remain privately owned until 2054 when it will be handed back to the Government. The 27-mile road has eight entry and/or exit junctions, and six toll stations.


Notes to Editors

1 Percentage increase of Retail Prices Index October 2013 251.9 v 183.5 in December 2003

October 2013 -

December 2003 -

2 Midland Expressway Ltd (MEL) M6 Toll average daily traffic figures for the quarter July - September 2013 -



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