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In a move sure to put a smile on the faces of HGV drivers across the UK, Midland Expressway has announced the M6 Toll motorway will be free to them and their vehicles for the month of July. It currently costs HGV drivers £11 to use the roadway during the week.

The decision is rooted in a desire by the operators of the roadway to find out if the M6 Toll would be a useful option to lorries and HGVs if tolls were reduced or eliminated. The M6 Toll roadway was opened in 2003 to reduce congestion on the M6 around Birmingham, but traffic is limited because companies and individual drivers do not want to pay the tolls.

By making the motorway free for the month of July, officials expect to get a clear idea of how beneficial the M6 Toll is to commercial transportation and logistics. If enough vehicles take advantage of the free toll, Midland Expressway may be more willing to reduce tolls for HGV drivers.

The main M6 slices through the Midlands, from Gretna in the north to Catthorpe in the South. Along the way, it travels through Birmingham, Stafford, Lancaster, Manchester, Liverpool, Carlisle, and Winsford. It also connects with more than a dozen important junctions that lorry drivers use to reduce mileage and time for local liveries.

For companies offering HGV training the news is equally welcome. Allowing free use of the M6 Toll would make it possible to get students out on the motorway for real-life training without additional expense, as long as the training facilities were close enough to make it worthwhile. However, for a company offering HGV training in Manchester, for example, the M6 Toll is too far way to take advantage of.

Not Meeting Expectations

When the M6 Toll was first opened, it was expected to ease M6 congestion around Birmingham. Indeed, it did. But plans to extend the toll road as far north as Manchester were scrapped after anticipated traffic did not meet expectations.

Originally it was hoped the motorway would serve 74,000 vehicles; statistics from 2005 showed just 50,000 vehicles per day. Increasing tolls further reduced traffic to just 39,000 vehicles in 2009.

HGV driving can be an expensive proposition when you add in both the cost of petrol and tolls. And with petrol continuing to go up year after year, drivers are likely to forgo toll roads if other suitable routes can be found. The M6 Toll motorway has been largely unsuccessful because HGV drivers can stay on the main M6 thoroughfare. They would rather do so and live with the congestion as opposed to paying such a steep toll for so short a stretch of road.

Hopefully the month of free use will once again spur interest in the M6 toll road. Commercial drivers looking to bypass Birmingham will find smooth sailing and a lot less traffic. Perhaps if it’s successful enough the motorway can eventually be made toll free for everyone. It is an idea whose time has come.

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