M6(Toll) – reduce prices and increase usage?

The M6(Toll) was built to free up the normal M6 and create ‘substantial’ growth along the corridor…

It has great similarities, situation wise, to the current debate on High Speed Rail.

I recall, as we live within a mile of the toll road and was involved with a compensation claims, the promise of a Utopian revolution for the Midlands economy and a freeing up of the road systems (particularly HGVs) knocking ‘valuable’ time off people’s journeys… at a cost that would ensure it is affordable for people to use.

Well, certainly the M6Toll is free running. The picture above was taken at rush hour, around 8am, and from my experience it is not that unusual to see a near clear road. Compare that to the M6 at that time, most of the time actually, where the picture of traffic couldn’t be more different.

And as numbers of vehicles fall on the M6Toll the cost to use it continues to escalate year on year. Are those facts linked? Of course they are. The catastrophic spiral of needing to maintain cash income as sales go down means only one thing… prices go up.

But as prices go up the sales reduce further meaning the prices have to go up again and again and again and the spiral continues and worsens.

The fact is that the near empty (less than 50% of planned capacity) M6(Toll) nowhere near meets the expected objectives around lightening the load on the ‘other’ M6 that were so enthusiastically and forcefully ‘sold’ well over a decade ago.

So what are the options? The obvious thing to try is to increase dramatically the number of vehicles using the road by halving the cost toward what it was when it started. Trebling the sales at half the price means increased revenue and could mean you’re back in business, potentially stopping the rot.

I dare say that Midland Expressway would argue the extra wear and tear the additional traffic would cause makes the idea non viable. If that’s the case how did the business case work back then other than relying heavily on exorbitant prices? Echoes of High Speed Rail possibly?

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