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Last Updated: Tuesday, 6 July, 2004, 17:23 GMT 18:23 UK
Second toll motorway to be built
Plans for Britain's second private toll motorway have been announced by Transport Secretary Alistair Darling.

The 50-mile highway, linking Birmingham to Manchester, could straddle the M6 motorway with two northbound lanes and two going south if it went ahead.

It would join with the existing M6 Toll, which by-passes north Birmingham.

Mr Darling also revealed a "carpooling" pilot scheme to reserve lanes for cars carrying two or more people on sections of four motorways including the M1.

'Policy shift'

The new motorway would be twice as long as the current M6 Toll and could cost more to use - although charges have yet to be decided.

A consultation period until late September now follows.

Charges on the current toll road are about 2 a day for cars, and 10 a day for lorries.

Heaviest traffic levels in Europe
Motorists earn the government an estimated 42bn a year
Eight out of 10 people expect congestion to get worse
Motorways are statistically the safest roads
Eight out of 10 motorists say they cannot do without their car
Source: RAC
Mr Darling told MPs the success of the M6 Toll indicated the time was right for this new road.

He said the scheme would "double the capacity" at a lower cost than widening the existing road and would also give motorists a choice and "allow more reliable journeys".

But environmental groups have reacted angrily to the proposals.

Stephen Joseph, director of campaign group Transport 2000, said he was concerned about a move towards "American-style 10-lane highways across the countryside".

"What we seem to be being offered by this government is choice on which road to drive and whether to pay for it, rather than whether you can drive or use public transport," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

longest stretch of new motorway proposed since the M40 extension between Oxford and Birmingham in 1991
it would create a five-lane M6, which was rejected as an idea in 2002
could affect large areas of housing in Stafford and four key sites of scientific or biological interest
would take more than 10 years to build and would meet forecasts of traffic growth until at least 2030

The government argues that the two stretches would give paying motorists more than 70 miles of jam-free motoring.

Traffic would also be drawn away from the old M6, benefiting those drivers not prepared to pay the tolls, it says.

And it believes building a separate motorway alongside the M6 would cause less disruption than widening the current road.

BBC transport correspondent Tom Symonds says the proposal is a "major shift in government policy towards paying to use motorways, an idea conceived by the Conservatives".

The Commons announcement will be followed by a three-month consultation.


Professor David Begg, chairman of the Commission for Integrated Transport, argued toll roads were part of "a much wider integrated policy".

More penalties on the long suffering motorist
Carole, UK

He told the Today programme: "A comprehensive spending review is coming up and, without pre-empting that review, railways will be the big, big winner."

National Alliance Against Tolls spokesman John McGoldrick said toll roads often led to further congestion on other roads because motorists refused to pay extra.

He said the alliance was planning a boycott of toll roads in September.

Recently opened

RAC Foundation executive director Edmund King broadly welcomed the announcement but urged the government to build "some degree of control into the levels of service and tolls charged".

The M6 Toll near Birmingham became the UK's first pay-as-you-go motorway when it opened in December 2003.

John Major's Conservative government began the project in the 1990s.

The building of the M6 Toll followed recommendations by transport consultants to the government at the beginning of 2002 to widen the M6 motorway to four lanes in both directions.

Their plans, which called for extra lanes over a 50-mile stretch, were not adopted.

The BBC's Rory Cellan-Jones
"There are strong opinions on both sides of this argument"

Will toll road scheme spread?
06 May 03  |  England
Tracking the future of driving
09 Jun 03  |  Politics
M6 Toll records broken by holiday
08 Jun 04  |  West Midlands
Head to head: M6 toll road
09 Dec 03  |  UK
M6 Toll road opens
09 Dec 03  |  Staffordshire
Plan to widen M6
17 Jan 02  |  England

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