Interest charges on the money to build the motorway
London - XINHUA
The owner of Britain's only fee-paying roadway, the M6 Toll Road, on Thursday reported a pre-tax loss of 32.5 million pounds (54.25 million U.S. dollars) for the past year, but said both income from tolls and the number of users increased compared to the previous year
The loss came when interest charges on the money to build the motorway were added.
Motorists in Britain are mainly resistant to paying to use roadways, particularly as they pay a compulsory licence fee, once known as the Road Fund Licence.
This was introduced by the government in 1920 to raise funds for road building schemes, and even today costs as little as three pounds a week, even less for "green" vehicles.
Long gone are the days of turnpikes and toll roads in Britain, but as roads and motorways became more congested, the concept of privately funded roads, paid for by tolls, reached the agenda in the 1980s.
The M6 toll, opened in 2003, bypassing the country's biggest road junction, "Spaghetti Junction" near Birmingham, and was trailed as the first of a new generation of toll roads.
It would provide an alternative to what is Britain's busiest stretch of motorway, destined to carry 72,000 vehicles a day, but congested even in the 1980s as 180,000 journeyed along the route.
Motorists would have the choice of being caught up in the daily gridlock on the M6 through the Midlands region of England. Or for a modest toll, they could escape the mayhem and swiftly head along the six-lane toll road. Spanning 43 km, it diverts traffic off the main motorway.
A multi-million pound improvement project along the main and free M6 has meant even more chaos for drivers, facing lane closures and speed restrictions.
Those long-term road works, still ongoing, gave an added boost to the M6 Toll, as more car drivers opted to pay 5.50 pounds to escape the gridlock on the parallel main M6.
M6 Toll owners, Midland Expressway Ltd, reported a pre-tax loss of 32.50 million pounds for the year ended Dec. 31, 2013.
Its toll revenue grew 13.5 percent to 65,905,000 pounds from 58,051,000 pounds in 2012, while vehicles using the toll section increased 12.1 percent from just over 13 million in 2012 to 14.6 million in 2013.
There was also a marked increase in heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) using the toll road, boosted by a month-long free-trial period in 2013. Currently HGVs pay 11 pounds to use the toll road.
Overall, the company made an operating profit of 37.69 million pounds, but this was eradicated by the massive interest charges.
The big worry is when improvements on the main M6 motorway through Birmingham are finished, usage of the toll road will drop.
The operators of the M6 Toll road have been involved in talks about a second toll road, this time a relief road along the busy M4 corridor that links England and South Wales.
However, the resistance of motorists to pay remains high.
The government announced last year plans to impose tolls to help pay for improvements to the congested A41 trunk road near to Britain's university city of Cambridge.
The proposed road scheme, slicing through what are considered to be solid Conservative heartlands, will go ahead -- but the idea of tolls was abandoned after uproar from local people.
The decision was welcomed by Stephen Glaister, director of the Royal Automobile Club Foundation, known to millions of drivers as the RAC. He said: "Piecemeal tolling that would raise little money but create a lot of aggravation and delay was always going to be a hard sell and not the best advert for pay-as-you-go driving."
More and more motorists in Britain are taking to them proverbial "Queen's Highways" -- but the message is clear: don't ask us to pay.