Secretary of State for Transport Launches M6toll Road

After a ribbon cutting ceremony at the mainline 10-lane toll plaza at Weeford Park, the Secretary of State then officially raised the barriers on Britain's first tolled motorway. The first vehicles joined the road from local side roads as part of a phased opening process, expected to take up to five days, that has been agreed between Midland Expressway Limited (MEL), the Highways Agency and Central Motorway Police Group. With safety the major priority, the opening process is designed to limit traffic over the initial stages and was reflected by the small number of vehicles on the road.

Commenting on the opening, Secretary of State for Transport Alistair Darling, said: "The M6toll gives motorists an important new choice when driving through Birmingham. Together with jam-busting measures being introduced on the M42, the upgrade of the West Coast Mainline, and our decision to widen the M6 from Birmingham to Manchester - this is yet another significant boost for the strategically important West Midlands transport corridor.

"The existing M6 carries over 160,000 people through Spaghetti Junction every day - the M6toll provides an alternative for motorists and will ease congestion. Midland Expressway should be congratulated for opening this new road a month ahead of schedule."

Tom Fanning, Managing Director of Midland Expressway, the company responsible for the design, construction and operation of the M6toll Road, commented: "We're pleased to be able to deliver an early Christmas present to motorists and business of reduced stress and shorter journeys. There will now be a free-flowing alternative to the M6 in the busy pre-Christmas period.

"The phased process began today and we expect the road to be fully open within five days. For most of this period the road remains essentially a local road, so traffic numbers will be small. With safety a priority, this is the way we've planned it. The opening process deliberately restricts traffic numbers in the first few days as it's the safest way of introducing motorists to a completely new high-speed route."

Stephen Allen, Chief Executive Officer, Macquarie Infrastructure Group, the main shareholder in Midland Expressway commented: "The M6toll has been delivered ahead of time and on budget. We look forward to providing a free-flowing alternative to the M6, delivering time savings to motorists and businesses over the next 50 years."

The phased opening will operate as follows:

Tuesday December 9th - 10.00am - intermediate junctions open from 10am
Junctions will open in the following order for traffic heading south.

T7 entry (Churchbridge - A5/A34/A460)
T6 exit & entry (Burntwood - A5 link)
T5 exit (Shenstone to A5148 (A38))
T4 exit & entry (Weeford Junction - A5/A38)
T3 exit & entry (Langley Mill South/North - A38)
T2 exit (Belfry - A446/A4091)
M42 Jn.8 merge and diverge (M42 south with M6toll south)
Southbound merge M6/M6toll (coordinated rolling block from M6 Jn.4)
Later that morning, traffic heading north will also be able to access the road:
Rolling block travelling north from Kingsbury Road:

T1 entry (Kingsbury Road A4097)
T3 exit & entry (Langley Mill South- A38)
T4 exit & entry (Weeford Junction - A5/A38)
T5 entry (Shenstone A5127)
T6 exit (Burntwood - A5 link)
T7 exit (Churchbridge A5/A34/A460)
T8 exit (Middle Hill - A460)
M6 Jn.11A merge (M6toll/M6)
PHASE 2
Friday tbc Northbound M42 opens from 10am

Traffic travelling north on the M42 will be able to access the M6toll from Jn.8 - Northbound M6 opens overnight
Traffic travelling north on the M6 will be able to access the M6 Toll from Jn.4
PHASE 3
Saturday tbc - Southbound M6 opens overnight

Traffic travelling south on the M6 will be able to access the M6toll from Jn.11A from Sunday morning
From Sunday morning, peak hour traffic will be able to avoid the M6 by using the M6toll
Photography of the launch is available for download at www.vismedia.co.uk

M6toll Road Media Team:
Nigel Pipkin 0121 605 1111 nigel@warmangroup.com
Lorna Bishop 0121 605 1111 lorna@warmangroup.com

Notes to editors
About the M6toll
The route of the 27 mile long M6toll road arcs to the north east of Birmingham between junctions 4 and 11 of the existing M6. The road provides a free-flowing alternative to the West Midlands road network. The M6toll will provide journey time savings and improved journey reliability and quality. Main works started in April 2001.

About Midland Expressway Limited
Midland Expressway Limited (MEL) is the company with overall responsibility for the financing, design, construction, operation and maintenance of the M6toll until 2054, when it will be handed back to the Government. MEL is jointly owned by Macquarie Infrastructure Group of Australia (75% ownership) and Autostrada SpA of Italy (25% ownership), both of which have extensive experience of owning and operating toll motorways. Put and Call options exist between MIG and Autostrada that will result in MIG moving to 100% ownership by the end of 2005. In September 2000 Midland Expressway Limited awarded the £485m contract to build the M6toll to CAMBBA, a consortium made up of Carillion, Alfred McAlpine, Balfour Beatty and AMEC.

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