|Part of E 05|
|Maintained by Midland Expressway Ltd.[a]|
|Length||27 mi (43 km)|
|History||Opened and Completed: 2003|
|Counties||Warwickshire, West Midlands, Staffordshire|
The M6 Toll, referred to on signs as the Midland Expressway (originally named the Birmingham Northern Relief Road or BNRR), and stylised as M6toll, connects M6 Junction 3a at the Coleshill Interchange to M6 Junction 11A at Wolverhampton with 27 miles (43 km) of six-lane motorway.
The M6 Toll is the only major toll road in Great Britain, and has two payment plazas, Great Wyrley Toll Plaza for northbound and Weeford Toll Plaza for southbound. The northbound toll plaza is situated between junctions T6 and T7, and the southbound between junctions T4 and T3. The weekday cash cost is £6.70 for a car and £12.00 for a Heavy Goods Vehicle.
The M6 Toll is part of the (unsigned in the UK) E-road E05 and is subject to the same regulations and policing as other motorways in the UK. It has one service station along its 27-mile (43 km) stretch, Norton Canes services.
Planning and construction
Proposals for a new publicly funded motorway were circulated in 1980. It was originally to be called the A446(M) Birmingham Northern Relief Road (BNRR) and designed to alleviate the increasing congestion on the M6 through Birmingham and the Black Country in England. This was the busiest section of the M6, carrying up to 180,000 vehicles per day when it was designed to carry only 72,000.
Five alternative routes were put for consultation in 1980 and a preferred route was published in 1986. In 1989 there was a public inquiry relating to a publicly funded motorway.
In 1989 it was announced that it would be built privately and a competition took place which was won by Midland Expressway Ltd in 1991. The contract was for a 53-year concession to build and operate the road as an early form of public private partnership with the operator paying for the construction and recouping its costs by setting and collecting tolls, allowing for a 3-year construction period followed by 50 years of operation. At the end of this period the infrastructure would be returned to the Government. Toll rates are set at the discretion of the operator at six-monthly intervals and there is no cap on the rates charged.
There was a second public inquiry from relating to the new scheme in 1994–1995 and a decision to go ahead in 1997. A legal challenge was made by the "Alliance against BNRR" which was cleared in 1998.
Site clearance started in 2000, construction work began in mid-2002 and the road opened in December 2003.
In August 2003 freight operators indicated that they planned to keep their vehicles on the heavily congested M6 through Birmingham rather than send them on the new motorway due to high fees. The AA Motoring Trust said it welcomed the decision to make lorries pay a premium rate explaining that "Car drivers find lorries intimidating and they frequently hold up traffic on motorways when overtaking each other."
The road was partially opened on 9 December 2003 for traffic entering from local junctions, then fully opened on 14 December 2003.
First year of operation
On 23 July 2004 prices for heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) were reduced from £10 to £6 to encourage them to use the route "for a trial period".
In December 2004, one year after opening, Friends of the Earth issued a press release expressing concern that faced with lower than expected traffic numbers, Midland Expressway were trying to attract new traffic-generating developments to greenbelt and greenfield sites in the M6 Toll Corridor. and in April 2005 the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors reported that there was strong interest in the commercial property market place around the M6 Toll "zone of influence".
In May 2005 the Macquarie Infrastructure Group reported that traffic figures were "disappointing". In August 2005 the Highways Agency confirmed in its own "one year" study showing that usage had settled at around 50,000 vehicle per day (lower than the predicted 74,000) but that traffic volumes on the M6 had reduced slightly.
From 2008, traffic levels started to fall. Traffic in the first quarter of 2009 was 39,000 vehicles-per-day (Monday-Friday figures), but recovered to reach 54,000 in the second quarter of 2015.
Historical toll rates
Day time cash prices for various vehicle classes since opening:
|Date introduced||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)|
|9 December 2003||£1.00||£2.00||£5.00||£5.00||£10.00|
|23 July 2004||£1.00||£2.00||£5.00||£5.00||£6.00|
|16 August 2004||£2.00||£3.00||£6.00||£6.00||£6.00|
|14 June 2005||£2.50||£3.50||£7.00||£7.00||£7.00|
|1 January 2008||£2.50||£4.50||£8.00||£9.00||£9.00|
|1 January 2009||£2.70||£4.70||£8.40||£9.40||£9.40|
|1 March 2010||£2.70||£5.00||£9.00||£10.00||£10.00|
|1 March 2011||£3.00||£5.30||£9.60||£10.60||£10.60|
|1 March 2012||£3.00||£5.50||£10.00||£11.00||£11.00|
|7 August 2017||£3.00||£5.90||£10.00||£11.00||£11.00|
There is a 5% discount for using a tag. Leasing of one tag currently costs £1.00/month. In addition, a monthly administrative fee of £2.00 is charged if the user wishes to receive a postal statement.
Exit/entry at some of the intermediate junctions away from the main toll booths entails a reduced toll, typically £1 less than the full fee.
There was a proposal to build a new toll motorway, called the M6 Expressway running from the end of the M6 Toll to Knutsford, where much of the traffic leaves the M6 for Manchester. It was announced on 20 July 2006 that this proposal had been abandoned due to excessive costs and anticipated construction problems.
Prices (from 4 December 2020)
|Class 1 (e.g. motorbike)||£3.20||£2.20||£3.10||£2.10||£2.10||£1.50||£3.10||£2.10|
|Class 2 (e.g. car)||£6.90||£4.90||£6.70||£4.90||£4.30||£3.30||£5.90||£4.30|
|Class 3 (e.g. car & trailer)||£10.30||£7.20||£10.20||£7.10||£6.80||£4.70||£8.90||£6.80|
|Class 4 (e.g. van or motorhome)||£11.80||£10.60||£11.60||£10.40||£9.90||£7.70||£10.10||£8.90|
|Class 5+ (e.g. HGV or coach)||£12.00||£10.90||£11.90||£10.70||£9.10||£7.80||£10.30||£9.10|
Tolls can be paid by one of four means: automated coin payments, payment at a staffed toll booth, automated credit/debit card payments or in advance via an M6 Toll tag. Not all methods are available at all toll gates; each of the toll gates features an electronic sign showing the payment methods available at the time.
Vehicles are classified electronically at the toll booths according to their number of wheels, number of axles and height at first axle. Thus vehicles with trailers are charged extra and some large models of 4x4 are classified as vans.
Failure to pay the toll for using the motorway is a civil offence; anyone attempting to do so will be issued with an unpaid toll notice and required to send payment. If it is not paid within two days a £10 administration charge is added, plus further costs will be added if the toll is still unpaid after 14 days.
Each tag can only be used with the registered number plate and has a unique account. All accounts on the M6 Toll are pre-paid, and must contain a positive balance, sufficient to cover the cost of the vehicle's toll, in order for the vehicle to be allowed through the toll gate. If the balance is sufficient, the tag will beep once and the barrier at the toll gate will automatically raise. If the balance is low (fewer than three journeys remaining), the tag will beep twice. If the balance of the account cannot cover the cost of the toll, the barrier will remain closed and an alternative method of payment must be used. Balances can be topped up automatically once a month using Direct Debit or credit card, or by cheque.
The tags contain a microchip which uses radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology. Physically, the tag resembles a DART-Tag, previously used to pay the tolls on the Dartford Crossing. The two systems do not interoperate.
Midland Expressway Ltd
The contract to build and operate the M6 Toll was won by Midland Expressway Ltd (MEL) in 1991. In 2005 MEL reported an operating profit of around £16 million. Total revenue was £45 million, with staff and other operating costs amounting to £11.4 million and depreciation of £17.4 million. Taking into account net interest costs of around £43 million, that leaves an overall loss of £26.5 million in 2005 – their first full financial year.
As of June 2005, MEL was 100% owned by Macquarie Infrastructure Group (MIG) of Australia, which operated several tolled roads in Australia and North America. Long term debt was £819 million as of 30 June 2005. Disappointing traffic figures for 2005 led to a price rise in June, and MIG Chief Executive Steve Allen commented in the Australian newspaper The Age, "What we need is to slow down the M6".
In June 2006 the decision to not increase tolls was put down to disappointing traffic levels and led to a reduction in value for the owner.
In 2010 MIG was split into two, and the M6 Toll is now managed by Macquarie Atlas Roads.
The M6 Toll lacks a proper link with the M54, which joins the M6 1.5 miles/2.5 km south of the northern end of the M6 Toll. Plans are afoot to link them eventually but for the time being traffic between the two has to use either the slow and often congested A460 to M54 J1, or go from M54 J2 via the A449 and A5 to M6 J12 – an extra 4 miles/7 km. It is unclear why access to/from the M54, which provides a link to the West Midlands from Shropshire and much of Wales, was not considered a priority when the toll road was being built; indeed, the M6 Toll did not appear on the M54's junction signs (at J2) until early 2009, more than 5 years after the road was opened.
Since the M6 Toll was designed primarily to speed journeys between the North West and the South East of England (by bypassing Birmingham), it offers no relief to traffic travelling to and from the South West region of the country, which has to continue using the "old" M6 in order to access the M5. The default lanes on the southbound M6 direct drivers onto the M6 Toll, making it easy for traffic bound for the South West, and indeed Birmingham itself, to accidentally enter the toll road, which will not only cost them the toll but will also take them severely off course.
The M6 Toll interchanges with the M6 were constructed in a way that traffic must turn off to remain on the M6, and the default route straight ahead is the toll route. Therefore, many vehicles who wanted to stay on the M6 inadvertently ended up on the M6 Toll, and had to pay the charge. As well as incurring toll charges, the new routes were longer than the original routes leading to accusations that this was just a ploy to increase traffic on the M6 Toll. Similar accusations have been made about variable message signs on the M6 that announce "M6 TOLL CLEAR", even when the M6 is also clear, that are under the control of Midland Expressway Ltd. These issues are mentioned on the M6 Toll FAQ pages, with explanations which emphasise that all drivers using the road are still liable to pay the toll. New signs have been put up above these variable message signs, clarifying the information as "M6 Toll Information".
Protest during planning and construction
Environmental campaigners opposed the road, from its inception. While the road was being built some advocates of direct action dug tunnels under Moneymore Cottage and two large underground bunkers in an adjacent wood named the Greenwood Camp. The camp was in the path of the road in order to frustrate and delay the work. Peter Faulding, a confined space rescue specialist from Specialist Group International who removed Swampy the anti-roads protester from the A30 protest and from the Newbury Bypass tunnels, was brought in to safely remove a number of protesters tunnelled deep underground. The tunnels were very complex and on different levels in Moneymore Cottage. Operation Encompass as it was called by the police was run by the Under sheriff of Staffordshire Mr John James, the eviction operation ran for fourteen days enabling construction to begin.
Friends of the Earth claimed that the road would not relieve much traffic from the West Midlands conurbation as most users using the M6 in that area began or ended their journeys within the conurbation and so the M6 Toll would offer no advantage to them. Their campaign co-ordinator for the West Midlands, Chris Crean, said that although the £900 million cost of the road had been borne by private companies, the money should have been spent on public transport.
The M6 Toll has few junctions, and some have limited access to discourage local traffic. Like modern toll roads in continental Europe, the M6 Toll still uses toll plazas, despite many other tolls in the UK switching to electronic toll collection (ETC) or being abolished.
The construction of the motorway threatened the restoration of the Lichfield Canal, which cut across the motorway's route. The Lichfield and Hatherton Canals Restoration Trust campaigned and raised funds to build an aqueduct to carry the canal over the motorway. The aqueduct has been finished but the canal has yet to reach it, giving it an odd appearance, known to some local residents as "The Climbing Lemming Bridge".
The towns, cities and roads listed are those given on road signs on the motorway as the junction is approached.
|M6 Toll motorway|
|Junction||Coordinates||Northbound exits||Tolls||Southbound exits||Tolls|
|M6 J11A||Motorway continues as M6 towards Stafford||None||Start of motorway||None|
|T8||(M6 South), Wolverhampton A460||None||No access (on-slip only)||None|
|T7||Walsall, Cannock A34, Rugeley A460||None||No access (on-slip only)||None|
|Norton Canes services|
|T6||Brownhills, Burntwood A5195||Exit||Brownhills, Burntwood A5195||Exit|
|T5||No access (on-slip only)||None||Lichfield A5148, Burton A38||Exit|
|T4||Burton, Lichfield A38, Tamworth A5||Exit||Tamworth, (M42 North) A5||Exit|
|T3||No access||Birmingham, Sutton Coldfield A38|
|Sutton Coldfield A38||Exit||No access (on-slip only)||Entry|
|T2||No entry or exit||None||A446 (M42 north) – Coleshill||None|
|T1||Split for M42 northbound, entry from A4097 (M42 J9, A446)||None||Merge with M42 southbound||None|
|M42 J8||Merge from M6 J4a southbound||None||No entry or exit||None|
|M42 J7A||Merge from M42 northbound||None||Split for M42 southbound||None|
|M6 J3A||Begins from M6 northbound||None||Merge with M6 southbound||None|
The southernmost section of the M6 Toll, south of Junction T1, is shared by traffic using the M42. Vehicles using only this five-mile section are not charged a toll.
Each motorway in England requires that a legal document called a statutory instrument be published, detailing the route of the road, before it can be built. The dates given on these statutory instruments relate to when the document was published, and not when the road was built. Provided below is a list (possibly incomplete) of the statutory instruments relating to the M6 Toll.
- Statutory Instrument 1998 No. 121: The Birmingham Northern Relief Road and Connecting Roads Scheme 1998 S.I. 1998/121
- Statutory Instrument 1998 No. 124: The Birmingham Northern Relief Road Toll Order 1998 S.I. 1998/124
- Statutory Instrument 2003 No. 2186: The M6 Toll (Collection of Tolls) Regulations 2003 S.I. 2003/2186
- Statutory Instrument 2003 No. 2187: The M6 Toll Wide Load Routes (Speed Limit) Regulations 2003 S.I. 2003/2187
- Statutory Instrument 2003 No. 2188: The M6 Toll (Speed Limit) Regulations 2003 S.I. 2003/2188
- "Pricing". M6toll. Retrieved 21 August 2019.
- "M6 Toll – Overview". M6 Toll. Archived from the original on 11 February 2008. Retrieved 24 January 2008.
- "Pathetic Motorways". pathetic.org.uk. Retrieved 29 July 2020.
- "M6 Toll - four years on". BBC Online. 30 November 2007. Retrieved 5 September 2015.
- "Lords Hansard text". 14 June 2005. Archived from nsrd/pdvn/lds05/text/50614w04.htm the original Check
|url=value (help) on 16 January 2016. Retrieved 30 September 2007.
- "M6 Toll built with pulped fiction". BBC News. 3 December 2003. Retrieved 24 January 2008.
- Ben Webster (3 August 2003). "drivers to bypass toll road". The Times. London. Retrieved 24 January 2008.[dead link]
- "M6 Toll figures 'encouraging'". BBC News. 24 December 2003. Retrieved 24 January 2008.
- "M6 Toll branded big flop". icBirmingham. 6 February 2004. Archived from the original on 8 February 2007. Retrieved 24 January 2008.
- "The M6 Toll has reached its 10 millionth customer". M6 Toll. 13 August 2008. Archived from the original on 18 October 2015. Retrieved 23 January 2008.
- "First Anniversary of M6 Toll Opening". Friends of the Earth. 9 December 2004. Archived from the original on 14 May 2005. Retrieved 24 January 2008.
- John de Kanter (1 May 2005). "The M6 Toll: 12 Months On". Royal Institute for Chartered Surveyors. Archived from the original on 4 May 2008. Retrieved 24 January 2008.
- "MIG M6 April Traffic Disappointing – GSJBW". new ratings. 23 May 2005. Retrieved 24 January 2008.
- "one year after study" (PDF). Highways Agency. 11 August 2005. Archived from the original (PDF) on 18 November 2009. Retrieved 24 January 2008.
- "M6 Toll Q1 2009 Traffic Figures".
- "M6 Toll Q2 2015 Traffic Figures". Archived from the original on 18 October 2015.
- "The M6 toll road". BBC Birmingham. Retrieved 24 January 2008.
- "Pricing table – valid from 14 June 2005" (PDF). M6 Toll. Archived from the original (PDF) on 10 September 2008. Retrieved 23 January 2008.
- "Toll Price Rise 1-1-08" (PDF). M6 Toll. Archived from the original (PDF) on 10 September 2008. Retrieved 24 January 2008.
- "M6toll pricing pdf chart" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 10 September 2008. Retrieved 2 January 2008.
- "Pricing table – Prices valid from 1st January 2009" (PDF). M6 Toll. Archived from the original (PDF) on 12 June 2011. Retrieved 1 March 2010.
- "Pricing table – Prices valid from 1st March 2010" (PDF). M6 Toll. Archived from the original (PDF) on 22 July 2011. Retrieved 1 March 2011.
- "Toll Rates for M6 Toll Effective (from 6.00 am) 1 March 2011" (PDF). M6 Toll. Archived from the original (PDF) on 18 October 2015. Retrieved 18 May 2012.
- "Toll Rates for M6 Toll Effective (from 6.00 am) 1 March 2012" (PDF). M6 Toll. Archived from the original (PDF) on 23 May 2012. Retrieved 18 May 2012.
- "Toll Rates for M6 Toll Effective (from 6.00 am) 7 August 2017" (PDF). M6 Toll. Archived from the original (PDF) on 23 May 2012. Retrieved 7 July 2017.
- "M6 Toll – Overview – Tags". M6 Toll. 18 February 2009. Archived from the original on 28 June 2007. Retrieved 18 February 2009.
- "Decision on M6 upgrade announced". 20 July 2006. Archived from the original on 13 March 2007. Retrieved 30 September 2007.
- "M6toll – Stress Free Motoring – Pricing Overview". Retrieved 30 December 2020.
- "M6Toll traffic returning after toll increase last summer". 13 February 2006. Archived from the original on 28 September 2007. Retrieved 30 September 2007.
- "Morgan takes the chair at BioDiem". The Age. Melbourne. 26 August 2005. Retrieved 30 September 2007.
- "Head to head: M6 toll road". BBC News. 9 December 2003. Retrieved 30 September 2007.
- "MIG's toll decision leads to downgrade". The Sydney Morning Herald. 23 May 2006. Retrieved 30 September 2007.
- MQA Macquarie Atlas Roads: Asset portfolio. Retrieved 24 July 2012.
- "M6 Toll is sold to investment group IFM". BBC News. BBC. 15 June 2017. Retrieved 15 June 2017.
- "M54 link to M6 Toll". 23 January 2012. Archived from the original on 10 May 2012. Retrieved 24 July 2012.
- "M54 to M6 / M6 (Toll) Link Road". Highways Agency. Archived from the original on 30 July 2012. Retrieved 24 July 2012.
- "BBC Birmingham". Retrieved 20 July 2010.
- "M6 Toll FAQ". Retrieved 14 July 2012.
- "Stress Free Motoring – Not found". M6toll. Archived from the original on 7 February 2012. Retrieved 31 December 2011.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to M6 Toll motorway.|
- Official site
- M6 Toll Ltd – tag details
- Macquarie Infrastructure Group
- CBRD Motorway Database – M6 Toll
- Multitoll Solutions SAS: Toll System provider on the M6 Toll
- Traffic figures on National Alliance Against Tolls site
- BBC News report on the road's early opening
- Some detail and photographs of the route and opening day
- The Motorway Archive – M6 Toll
- Pathetic Motorways: A446(M)