Pay-to-use motorway fails to secure bidders

Ashley Coates
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GBR: Vehicles On The M6 Toll Road
Source: Getty

A £1.9bn deal to sell M6 Toll road has fallen through, prompting lenders to consider refinancing Britain’s only pay-to-use motorway.

Plans to sell the motorway were announced in February last year and were already delayed as a result of the summer’s EU referendum vote. The sale is now not expected to take place, according to reports by the Financial Times.

Also known as the Birmingham North Relief Road, the 27-mile M6 Toll was opened in 2003, with the aim of easing congestion around the West Midlands area.

The price tag is matched by the road’s debt pile. Midland Expressway has accumulated £1.9bn in debt operating the toll road, which cost £900m to construct.

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A group of 27 lenders, including Crédit Agricole and Commerzbank, took control of the asset three years ago, following a debt restructuring. The process of finding new bidders is believed to be continuing, possibly at a lower price, while sources claim the lenders may be looking to find cheaper ways to service the operator’s debts.

The Spanish toll-road operators IFM Investors and Abertis are understood to have been in the running to acquire the M6 Toll.

Critics have warned that the toll fees are part of the reason why the road has reported lower-than-expected traffic figures but Midland Expressway said this would be of "little benefit" to easing local congestion.

Designed to carry around 75,000 a day, the M6 Toll has never achieved its target capacity, with an average of 48,000 vehicles now making daily use of the road.

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Facing calls for the road to be nationalised, Midland Expressway said the road carried between 85 and 95 per cent of through traffic at peak times back in December.

Running between Coleshill and Great Saredon, cars are charged £5.50 for use of the motorway, while trucks can expect to pay up to £11.

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