'No plans' for free M6 Toll road, says government

M6 Toll road
Image caption The 27-mile M6 Toll road which links Cannock, Staffordshire, with Coleshill, Warwickshire, opened in 2003

The government says it has no plans to buy the M6 Toll road and make it free for users.

Sion Simon, Labour's West Midlands metro mayor candidate, is among people calling for public ownership of the road to ease congestion on other roads.

But the Department for Transport said buying the road, which links Cannock and Coleshill, would cost about £1bn.

Midlands Expressway, which operates the M6 Toll, said it already carried 85% to 90% of through traffic at peak times.

For this reason, the firm added, making the road free would be of "little benefit" for reducing wider congestion.

However, Mr Simon claimed the road was often "empty".

"We need support from the government to take that road into regional control, making it free and taking the pressure off roads in the conurbation so people can move around," he said.

But Bob Sleigh, the Conservative leader of Solihull Council and chairman of the West Midlands Combined Authority, said the problem was drivers were using motorways for local journeys and were "junction hopping".

The answer was improving the local road network instead, he said.

The 27-mile route in the West Midlands opened in 2003 at a cost of £900m to build.

Car drivers are charged £5.50 and HGVs £11 to use the road during the week.

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