'Scrap M6 Toll charges': Call for action to cut motorway congestion and pollution
Charges on the M6 Toll should be lifted to ease crippling congestion on motorways across the West Midlands, according to council bosses.
Long queues on the M6 are costing the region’s economy dear and pumping out dangerous air pollution, the leaders say.
Now they are demanding action to make the M6 Toll free so that more traffic can be diverted on to other routes.
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The influential Black Country Local Enterprise Partnership, which includes council leaders from across the region, has agreed to launch a campaign and to lobby for a lifting of the tolls.
Charges for the M6 Toll currently range from £1.50 to £12, depending on the type of vehicle and when it is travelling.
The 27-mile route, which opened in 2003, connects the M6 Junction 3a at the Coleshill Interchange to M6 Junction 11A, serving Wolverhampton, Walsall and Cannock.
Sandwell Council leader Yvonne Davies said the toll should either be removed or “put elsewhere” to help tackle the issue.
She called for an open debate on whether the private road should be brought into the country’s free-to-travel motorway network.
She said: “We have got businesses deciding to not carry the expense and they are adding to the air pollution in Sandwell.
“I would prefer they go through the M6 and we remove the toll. The idea of the M6 was that it was to remove heavy traffic and help with the traffic problems.
"And if the cost is deterring people, it seems to me we have defeated the object of it.
“I appreciate it will be an extraordinary expense to remove it, but it is having unforeseen expenses.
“I think there need to be a sensible debate in the West Midlands over how we can encourage people to use the toll.
“That might mean we need to look at ways to lower the price or remove the cost.”
The M6 Toll, owned by IFM Investors, has previously faced strong criticism over a price hike earlier this year on the route, which also passes through Staffordshire.
Council leaders also identified sites for tree planting in the region as part of steps to tackle pollution, with businesses urged to help meet the targets.
A report to the LEP said: "If the Black Country continues to reduce at the average of the last three years, 3.4 per cent, we would reach zero in 2282.
"In order to meet net zero by 2041, emissions across the Black Country would have to reduce annually by 30 per cent from 2020."
Midland Expressway Ltd today said it would work with council leaders on concerns about pollution.
A spokesman said it helps ease congestion, adding: “The toll road takes 18 million vehicles off the congested M6 every year and up to 85 per cent of the longer distance traffic at peak times.
"We’re introducing new deals and products to encourage more local traffic onto the road as well.”
But roads lobby group the RAC Foundation backed calls for tolls to be lifted.
Director Steve Gooding called for Boris Johnson to buy it back, adding: “The M6 Toll stands out like a sore thumb in the midst of our national motorway system.”