The Freight Transport Association has condemned the latest increase in rates for the M6 Toll as a clear sign that Midland Expressway, the operator of the route, clearly does not want HGV traffic using its road. FTA says that the consequential under-utilisation of the road by commercial vehicle traffic results in congestion elsewhere. As from 1 January 2008 the rates for HGVs to use the route will increase from £8 to £9 – an increase of 12.5 per cent.
FTA says that ever since the M6 Toll opened, the road has never been a route of choice for the transport industry due to the pricing structure which has been imposed for lorries. Midland Expressway appears not to want lorries to use its new road and HGV traffic has been conspicuous by its absence. The scarcity of commercial traffic using the route is directly attributed to the fees which have been imposed by the operator, and this forces lorries to use the existing M6 around Spaghetti Junction and through the heart of Birmingham, which itself is subject to delays on a daily basis.
Stephen Kelly, FTA's Head of Policy for the Midlands, Wales and South West said, 'Price increases on the M6 Toll are now an all-too-familiar annual event. The most frustrating thing is that this latest annual increase of 12.5 per cent is nowhere near in line with the Retail Price Index (RPI), which is the most general purpose domestic measure of inflation in the United Kingdom. We remain perplexed and frustrated that the M6 Toll, which forms part of the country's strategic road network, is so under-utilised, whilst the M6 through Birmingham remains solid with traffic for long periods during the day. It is such a sorry state of affairs that such a free-flowing road is currently operating nowhere near its full capacity as a result of its ludicrous pricing structure. The latest announcement from Midland Expressway as regards fees leads me to the conclusion that the operator simply does not want HGV traffic using its route as this could potentially lead to increased maintenance costs.
'FTA was a long-time campaigner for the construction of the M6 Toll and indeed gave evidence to the public inquiry back in the early 1990s. Before the route was opened our members were anticipating a rate of between £3 to £4 for lorries, a rate which would have resulted in very considerable support. However, the rates in operation since the road opened have been, and continue to be, absolutely prohibitive.
'FTA has always been concerned by the 50 year agreement that exists between Midland Expressway and the Government which basically gives the M6 Toll operator 'carte blanche' to set its own pricing structure. It is clearly obvious that Midland Expressway interprets RPI differently to everyone else – Rip-off Private Infrastructure!'
The Freight Transport Association represents the interests of companies moving goods by road, rail, sea and air. FTA members operate over 220,000 goods vehicles – almost half the UK fleet. In addition they consign over 90 per cent of the freight moved by rail and over 70 per cent of sea and air freight. FTA's website can be found at www.fta.co.uk