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M6 tolled Expressway is ‘blind alley’

The Government’s proposal to build a parallel tolled Expressway in an attempt to relieve congestion on the M6 north of Birmingham across Staffordshire and Cheshire could entrench rather than solve congestion.

It also risks undermining urban regeneration in the North West and West Midlands regions, according to the findings of a report commissioned by Transport 2000 and Friends of the Earth.

The report was published last Thursday (October 21) on the day the Government’s consultation on the M6 Expressway proposal closes.

Sources within the Government suggest that representations by individuals and organisations are running at 18 to one against the scheme.

The report, ‘The M6 Expressway: Open Road or Blind Alley?’ by planning consultant Alan Wenban-Smith, a former assistant director of development for Birmingham City Council, casts doubt on the extent to which the existing M6 Toll has relieved the M6 through Birmingham and points out that any private toll road operator would have a vested interest in keeping the existing M6 congested so that its road is as attractive as possible.

Wenban-Smith says that, on the Government’s own figures, the M6 Toll has reduced traffic on the M6 through Birmingham by only 8% and even that figure is eroding as traffic is attracted back on to the M6, while M6 lorry traffic has actually increased. A tolled M6 Expressway might, he says, be even less effective because the nature of the traffic north of Birmingham is different.

On regeneration, the report says that the proposed tolled M6 Expressway is likely to undermine the regeneration of urban areas and lead to car-based sprawl, with greater social polarisation and exclusion. Instead the report recommends tolling existing roads with the money ring-fenced for investment in public transport.

Stephen Joseph, director of Transport 2000, said: ‘This report demonstrates clearly that the proposed M6 Expressway is a blind alley that would fail to solve congestion. We need an alternative strategy to tackle traffic problems on the M6, based on traffic reduction and better alternatives.

Nothing else is going to work.’ Chris Crean, regional campaigner for Friends of the Earth, said: ‘Rather than pandering to the road building lobby, the Government should be bringing forward variable road user charging on the current road network and reinvesting that money into better public transport.’

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