|Part of E05|
|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 £7.00 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.
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, as well as improving road links to neighbouring parts of Staffordshire and North Warwickshire. 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.
Midland Expressway Limited contracted out the construction of the road to a consortium of major contractors Carillion, Alfred McAlpine, Balfour Beatty and AMEC (together known as CAMBBA).
Site clearance started in 2000, major construction work began over the summer of 2002 and the road opened in December 2003.
2.5 million books, including many Mills & Boon novels, were pulped and mixed into the tarmac surface to help absorb water.
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.
On 10 January 2004, five weeks after opening, a short section of the road near Sutton Coldfield was reduced to one lane to allow for repairs to an uneven surface.
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 Institution 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.
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.
|Class 1 (e.g. motorbike)||£3.30||£2.30||£3.20||£2.20||£2.20||£1.60||£3.20||£2.20|
|Class 2 (e.g. car)||£7.00||£5.00||£6.80||£5.00||£4.40||£3.40||£6.10||£4.40|
|Class 3 (e.g. car & trailer)||£10.70||£7.60||£10.60||£7.50||£7.20||£5.10||£9.30||£7.20|
|Class 4 (e.g. van or motorhome)||£12.30||£11.10||£12.10||£10.90||£9.50||£8.20||£10.60||£9.40|
|Class 5+ (e.g. HGV or coach)||£12.60||£11.50||£12.50||£11.30||£9.70||£8.40||£10.90||£9.70|
Tolls can be paid by credit/debit card payments or in advance via an M6 Toll tag. Cash or mobile payments (such as Apple or Google Pay) are not accepted.
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.
An M6 Toll tag is an electronic toll collection device attached to a vehicle's windscreen, which records the vehicle's passage through toll plazas on the M6 Toll.
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.
A new transformational tolling system involving Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) technology is currently being trialed on the M6toll as part of the M6toll’s Road Ahead strategy.
The ANPR cameras will identify licence plate data, removing the need for card payments at the toll plazas and replacing them with a remote payment system linked to online accounts. It will enable seamless end to end journeys and mean customers can manage all transactions via the M6toll website, whether for a single vehicle or larger fleets spread across a number of depots.
The ANPR system was Initially launched on 8 April 2021 as a pilot project for business customers, with Maritime, one of the UK’s largest logistics operators, becoming the first vehicles to pay for their journeys on the M6toll via the new tolling system. Once the trials have been completed with Maritime and other commercial vehicle operators, the ANPR system will be rolled out to other road users.
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".
Business leaders in Staffordshire, now effectively closer to London, welcomed the opening of the road, saying that it would make it easier to do business there.
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 road was put up for sale in 2016 and was sold to IFM Investors in June 2017.
The M6 Toll lacks a proper link with the M54, which joins the M6 1.5 miles (2.4 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, with the default route straight ahead being the toll route. Therefore, many vehicles wanting 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".
All M6 Toll related signage has been developed in conjunction with Highways England.
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.
In 2017, the House of Commons Library produced a briefing paper on road tolls written by Louise Butcher, which included the M6 Toll. The paper suggested that "The M6 toll road has had mixed success; it is unusual in that it is in direct competition with a free motorway running along the same route; this may account for some of the difficulties it has experienced since opening more than a decade ago."
The M6 Toll has several intermediary junctions, and some were designed originally to limit 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".
In 2014/2015 Lichfield and Hatherton Canals Restoration Trust received a Social Investment Business (SIB) grant of £336,000 which will enable the Trust to buy land on either side of the aqueduct and carry out the necessary work to rebuild the canal to bring the aqueduct into use.
In April 2015, Midland Expressway Limited donated £50,000 to Lichfield and Hatherton Canals Restoration Trust to honour an undertaking they made when the M6toll was built. The donation is a "substantial contribution" towards the cost of reinstating the Crane Brook Culvert which was removed when the motorway was built.
The motorway's only service station is situated at Norton Canes, between junctions T6 and T7. It is operated by Roadchef, which has a 25-year lease on the site and the company also uses the site as its head office.
Opened on 9 March 2004, Norton Canes services is located between junctions T6 and T7, and is positioned so that it can be accessed before reaching the main toll plaza in either direction. In 2019, the Motorway Services User Survey found that Norton Canes had the highest customer satisfaction of any motorway services in the UK. In 2021, Norton Canes was voted in the top 5 UK service stations in a Which consumer survey, and was the highest positioned Midlands based service station in the same survey.
Since the road opened in 2003, M6toll’s ‘Drive for Charity’ initiative has given away more than £1 million to good causes. This has included a regular cash fund of up to £1,500 given away every month to charities, schools, sports clubs or voluntary organisations helping to enhance the lives of local people.
The M6toll also supports the Midlands Air Ambulance charity. The funding provided enabled the organisation to launch the ‘Sky Champs’ education programme, an online learning management system, and range of education packs, launched at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic as schools were heavily impacted by the national lockdown
M6toll also provides regular support to the Ride to the Wall initiative, providing free passage for bikers attending the event at the National Memorial Arboretum in October each year.
The annual ‘Ride To the Wall’ charity event attracts bikers from across the UK and overseas, all riding to the Armed Forces Memorial to pay their respects to serving and fallen service men and women to raise funds for the Arboretum.
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.
((cite web)): Check