Lorry operators in the West Midlands say that the latest increase in rates for the M6 Toll confirms that Midland Expressway clearly does not want HGV traffic on its road. The Freight Transport Association says that the consequential under-utilisation of the road by commercial vehicle traffic results in congestion elsewhere.
Members of FTA's West Midlands Freight Council, meeting in Coventry this week (17 January), expressed disappointment and anger at the increase in HGV fees for the M6 Toll to £8 – a hike of 14 per cent.
FTA members say 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 on lorries. Midland Expressway Ltd appears not to want lorries to use its new road and HGV traffic has been conspicuous by its absence. The dearth 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 is subject to delays on a daily basis.
The result is that lorries have to use the existing M6, which is having increasing implications on industry's ability to satisfy consumer demand for goods via its 'just-in-time' distribution techniques.
Stephen Kelly, FTA's Head of Policy for the Midlands, Wales & South West said, 'FTA members remain continuously frustrated that the M6 Toll, which forms part of the country's strategic road network, is under-utilised whilst the M6 to the north of Birmingham remains solid with traffic for long periods. The lack of commercial traffic on the M6 Toll leads me to the conclusion that the operator of the toll road simply does not want HGV traffic using its route as this could potentially lead to increased maintenance costs. It is 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 M6 Toll is clearly not a route of choice for industry, which brings further frustration for drivers of commercial vehicles as they have to endure the daily grind on the existing M6.'
The Freight Transport Association was a long-time campaigner for the construction of the M6 Toll and gave evidence to the public inquiry which resulted in the road being built. Stephen Kelly said, 'Our members anticipated a toll rate of between £3 to £4 for lorries – a rate which I believe would have resulted in very considerable support. However, the rates in operation since the road opened have been, and continue to be, absolutely prohibitive.'