M6 toll - a love and hate thing

by DannyUK

Being in a long distance relationship means that I’m often driving up or down the M6 to see my wonderful girlfriend (a drive which she also does as often as I do, but this is my blog, so it’s my story).

The M1 motorway when it first opened in 1959. Taken from an article by DannyUK.com

The M1 motorway when it first opened in 1959.

In the time we’ve been together I have become a big fan of the M6 toll road. The road has been open for around ten years now, and in all the time I have used it, it’s never been busy. In fact, I quite often describe it as being how motorways were when they opened (though admittedly this is only based on the photo here!)

Compare the Toll road to the M6 section that runs through Birmingham, and the difference is obvious. The M6 is always busy and quite often runs into traffic jams at busy periods.

Also, the road itself is horrible to drive on, with a terrible surface that can’t be good for the cars. In fact, the only thing that this section of the M6 has going for it is the fact that it’s free. The M6 toll, as you’re probably aware, charges drivers to use it, and although discounts are available for off-peak driving (between 11 pm and 6 am, or at weekends), the cost for a car to use it is £5.50 (up from just £2.00 when the road opened in 2003 - a whopping 275% increase!).

When fuel prices are as high as they are, this is an offputting expense, though when you are sitting motionless on the non-toll road, it feels like a bargain.

The M6 toll clear road sign. Taken from an article by DannyUK.com

My biggest problem with the road, though, is the signs approaching the toll road. Whether you are driving North or South, there are several signs which will declare if the toll road is clear, and it’s not uncommon to see the display “M6 toll clear”, but never a mention of whether the M6 itself is clear.

I know that long delays on the M6 are displayed, but I’ve definitely had occasions where the signs had only said about the toll road being clear, yet I’ve chosen the non-toll route, only to run into heavy traffic.

It strikes me as an easy way to make money, by implicating that the M6 road may not be clear through simply failing to mention it.

No matter how many traffic reports I listen to, or how traffic-aware my satnav may be, I never know which road to choose, and am normally either keen to be with my girlfriend and wanting to get to her sooner rather than later, or in a bad mood as I’m leaving her behind, and again just want to get home.

The toll has had some bad press, with usage figures well below the expected levels. If you’re happy to pay the cost of using it, though, the chances are that it will be fairly empty.

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