The RAC Foundation's views come after has urged after Midland Expressway Ltd the route’s private operator announced price increases starting from the end of July.
Charges are due to rise for cars, vans and heavy goods vehicles using the 43km route, sparking fears that traffic will be driven away from the toll road and back onto the congested M6. The M6 Toll is currently estimated to carry around 50,000 vehicles daily. The cost for a car journey will go up by between 30p and 50p per journey, depending on the day and time the trip is made. Prices for vans will rise by between 10p and 30p and for HGVs the increase will be between 20p and 50p.
“It would be a great pity if this sharp hike in tolls persuaded drivers to stick with the old M6,” said RAC Foundation director Steve Gooding. Commercial traffic is particularly price sensitive, he added.
“When conceived the M6 Toll was intended to be a pathfinder beacon for much more similarly toll funded road capacity, but since that never happened the reality is that the M6 Toll sticks out like a sore thumb.
“Surely the right answer is for it to be properly integrated into the Highways England network, toll free.”
Mayor of the West Midlands, Andy Street and the leaders of the West Midlands Combined Authority have urged M6 Toll operator Midland Expressway Ltd (MEL) to reconsider the planned price increases.
In a letter to the operator, they said the plans fly in the face of the region’s efforts to improve air quality and manage congestion.
“This will do nothing to move more vans and heavy goods vehicles off the region’s other major roads and onto the M6 Toll,” the letter says. “This needs to happen if we are serious about improving air quality and managing congestion.”
It adds: “We are also surprised that MEL is proposing these increases at a time when a major public consultation on air quality, including the introduction of a clean air zone in Birmingham, is about to begin.
“We trust that MEL will reconsider these price increases and work with us on improving air quality and managing congestion, two of the biggest challenges this region faces.”
The Freight Transport Association’s policy manager for the Midlands, Chris Yarsley commented: “While increases in transport costs are always unwelcome to the freight industry, this announcement is particularly concerning due to its impact on Birmingham's clear air agenda.
“The fee increase will encourage some HGVs to abandon the motorway and use those running through Birmingham itself. We ask this decision be reconsidered for the greater good.”
MEL has also announced that it will introduce a four month trial to cap prices for 100 local car drivers, who will be given a weekly maximum price of £20 for unlimited journeys.
Following the criticism, a spokesman for the operator said: “Last year the number of HGVs using the M6 Toll was up 17% and we’re committed to continuing to increase the number of cars, vans and trucks choosing to use the M6 Toll, freeing up the M6 and surrounding A roads for local traffic.”
Photo: David Dixon and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence