The M6 Toll motorway has been put up for sale by the banks that own it – for a reported asking price of almost £2 billion.
This is to recover £1.9 billion of debts from the perennially loss-making motorway, which cost £900 million to build (a figure that was privately funded) and is said to lose around £25 million a year.
That’s despite charging car drivers a weekday flat fee of £5.50 to use it; HGVs pay £11 to avoid M6 congestion.
The 27-mile toll motorway, which first opened in 2003, is used by around 50,000 vehicles a year, compared to the 200,000 vehicles that pass through the ‘free’ M6 spaghetti junction.
And it is this stark under-utilisation, coupled with regular gridlock around the rest of the West Midlands motorway network, that is leading calls for the government to nationalise the M6 Toll motorway.
‘Buy the M6 Toll’
“This is a once in a generation opportunity to take this asset into public ownership and make it possible for it to work more effectively for the West Midlands and the rest of the UK,” Conservative MP Gavin Williamson told regional paper the Express & Star.
“Potentially you could still charge to use it, but at a much lower rate that makes it possible for more people to use it regularly, creating a far higher rate of usage than at present.”
And although the West Midlands already has lots of free motorways, including the M5, M6, M40 and M42, Williamson said opening up the M6 Toll would be a worthwhile investment that would “transform the situation and improve the way the motorway network works for the people of the West Midlands.
“We don’t have a lack of motorways in the West Midlands, what we have is a motorway that is massively under used.”