Soaring popularity of the M6 Toll is partly down to more haulage companies continuing to use it following a free trial and other drivers being put off by roadworks on the free motorway, bosses have said.
Figures reveal that from October to December last year the average number of vehicles using the 27-mile stretch of motorway was up 12.1 per cent to 41,889 compared to the same quarter in 2012.
Last July Midland Expressway, which has the concession to run the M6 Toll until 2054, gave members of the Road Haulage Association free use of the road as an experiment aimed at boosting the number of lorries using it. The trial month resulted in an extra 1,000 HGV journeys a day on the road which offers a shortcut from junction 3A of the M6 to junction 11A.
Road Haulage Association director for the Midlands and Western region, Nick Payne, said Midland Expressway had picked up new accounts as a result of the trial.
“If HGV traffic is up it is because of the trial that was run,” he said. “We are looking at what else we can do together with Midland Expressway for our members,” he added. Despite the increase in numbers, some hauliers said they were still avoiding the M6 Toll because of the cost.
Steve Grice, transport manager at Winfield Transport in Hawks Green, Cannock, said: “Our vehicles have only used the route three times since it opened.”
He added that even during the M6 road works through last year the firm had not been tempted to begin using it.
Ed Weetman Haulage at Pasturefields, near Stafford, is another firm that is continuing to avoid using the road because of the of the high charges. Colin Leafield, the transport spokesman for the Black Country Chamber of Commerce, said the spike in use of the M6 Toll was probably due to commercial vehicle drivers making a financial decision on how much it was going to cost being stuck in roadworks on the M6.
“When you have a heavy goods vehicle, half an hour sitting in traffic can be expensive,” he said. “People will make a decision based on how much that is costing them in fuel and the cost of the toll.”
He added: “The M6 Toll needs to be properly integrated into the national road system. Ideally that would mean it being bought out by the Government and removing the tolls, but that would be expensive and is not realistic at the moment.
“It is an excellent road, and we would see it used more if the tolls were reduced, for instance an arrangement between the Government and the owners to reduce tolls at times when the M6 is congested.”
Professor Stephen Glaister, director of the RAC Foundation, said: “It is good to see the number of drivers using this piece of infrastructure creeping back up.
“The operators are right to say a recovering economy and road works on the original M6 will drive traffic on to the toll road, but they are still some way off their daily peak for this time of year of 56,000 vehicles seen back in 2007. Ultimately demand comes down to pricing.”