The M6 Toll (or Birmingham North Relief Road, or BNRR, or Midland Expressway), connects M6 Junction 4 at the NEC to M6 Junction 11A at Wolverhampton with of three-lane motorway. The day time cash cost is £4.50 for a car and £9 for a HGV. The M6 Toll is part of the (unsigned in the UK) E-road E5 and is subject to the same regulations and policing as other motorways in the UK.
|(06:00 - 23:00)||(23:00 - 06:00)|
|Class 1 (e.g. motorbike)||£2.50||£1.50|
|Class 2 (e.g. car)||£4.50||£3.50|
|Class 3 (e.g. car & trailer)||£8.00||£7.00|
|Class 4 (e.g. van/coach)||£9.00||£8.00|
|Class 5 (e.g. HGV)||£9.00||£8.00|
|Class 6 (e.g. HGV with 7 or more axles)||£9.00||£8.00|
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 an 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, as used to pay the tolls on the Dartford Crossing. However, the two systems do not interoperate.
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 (whose vice-president is the actor David Suchet) campaigned and raised 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. This has had a side-effect – the Government has promised that never again will a new road be built in the path of a waterway restoration scheme, unless an aqueduct or tunnel is provided.
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 go-ahead in 1997. A legal challenge was made by the 'Alliance against BNRR' which was cleared in 1998.
Site clearance started in 2000 and the road opened in December 2003. When creating the surface of the road some 2.5 million Mills & Boon novels were pulped and mixed into the tarmac to help the surface absorbency.
Construction work began in the summer of 2002.
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 23 July 2004 prices for lorries were reduced from £10 to £6 to encourage them to use the route "for a trial period".
In August 2004 a lower price was available during off-peak hours (23:00 - 06:00) and for the Langley Mill for a northbound exit or a southbound entry.
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.
Day time cash prices for a various vehicle classes since opening:
|Class||9 December 2003||23 July 2004||16 August 2004||14 June 2005||1 January 2008|
|Class 1 (e.g. Motorbike)||£1||£1||£1||£2.50||£2.50|
|Class 2 (e.g. Car)||£2||£2||£3||£3.50||£4.50|
|Class 4 (e.g. Van)||£5||£5||£5||£7||£9|
|Class 5 (e.g. HGV)||£10||£6||£6||£7||£9|
There is a 5% discount for using a tag. Leasing of one tag currently costs £1.00/month.
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.
An increase that was planned for the summer of 2006 was delayed.
For northbound drivers on the M6, the junction with the M6 Toll has also been branded confusing. This is largely due to the fact that this end of the M6 Toll actually joins the M42 just north of the M6/M42 junction. Again, drivers have to opt-out in order to use the M6, and much of the junction has been labelled confusing by motorists.
There have been further accusations that junctions on the road are under-standard, as they all involve sharp corners and require drivers to slow down drastically before leaving the motorway.
Similarly, the signage for the M6 Toll has been labelled confusing, on the basis that drivers can easily misread signs, particularly where both the M6 and M6 Toll are listed on the same sign. For this reason, some motorists have suggested that the road should have taken a different name (such as "T6" or "M6T), and/or that signs for toll motorways should have a different background colour to standard motorways, in order to allow motorists to distinguish between the two with only a brief glance at a sign.
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 £900m cost of the road had been borne by private companies, the money should have been spent on public transport.
|M6 Toll Motorway|
|Southern end||Merge between M42 northbound and M6 J3a northbound||None||Split between southbound M42 and a merge with M6 J3a southbound||None|
|M6 Merge||Merge from M6 J4a southbound||None||None|
|T1||Split for M42 northbound, entry from A4097 (M42 J9, A446)||None||Merge with M42 southbound||None|
|T2||No entry or exit||None||A446 (M42 north) - Coleshill||None|
|T3 Langley Mill||A38 - Sutton Coldfield (exit and entry)||Exit||A38 - Birmingham (N)/Sutton Coldfield (exit and entry)||Entry|
|Weeford Park toll|
|T4 Weeford Junction||A38/A5 - Burton/Lichfield/Tamworth (exit and entry)||Exit||A5 (M42 north) - Tamworth (exit and entry)||Exit|
|T5 Wall||Entry from A5127 (A5/A5148)||None||A5148 (A38) - Lichfield/Burton||Exit|
|T6 Brownhills||A5195 - Brownhills/Burntwood (exit and entry)||Exit||A5195 - Brownhills/Burntwood (exit and entry)||Exit|
|Norton Canes services|
|Great Wyrley toll|
|T7 Churchbridge||A34/A460 - Walsall/Cannock/Rugeley||None||Entry||None|
|T8 Wedges Mills||A460 (M6 south) - Wolverhampton||None||Entry||None|
|Northern end||Merge with M6 J11a northbound||None||Begins from M6 J11a southbound||None|
As of June 2005, MEL is 100% owned by Macquarie Infrastructure Group of Australia who operate many tolled roads in Australia and across the world including Highway 407 in Canada. Long term debt was £819 million as of 30 June 2005. Disappointing traffic figures for Summer 2005 led to a price rise in June and for MIG Chief Executive Steve Allen to comment 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