A446(M) Birmingham Northern Relief Road

Where is it?

More like where isn't it?


OK, this is another one of those "never was" motorways, but with a twist.

OK, what's the twist?

It exists today - the M6 Toll!

Can you show me where it is on a map?


When was it built?

It was opened in 2003.

Have you got a map showing the original number?

Of course...

So why was the number changed?

Probably because someone realised that a major national through-route shouldn't have such a rubbish number.

Instead, it's been given a rubbish number...

I take it you're not impressed with the M6 Toll?

Not exactly - it's far too confusing having two M6s, with really appalling signing to differentiate the two. For example, at the southern end, you get the wonderful choice of "The North West, Birmingham M6" or "The North West M6 Toll".

So which way are you supposed to go to Wolverhampton? Or Telford and Wales via M54? All three are major signed destinations after Birmingham on the M6, but for all you need to leave before the M6 Toll rejoins or take an annoyingly long detour, hence you can easily pick the wrong way...

Please, anyone from the Highways Agency, get this sorted!

Is that your rant over?

Yes. I feel much better now.

So how long was the A446(M) kicking around for?

Well, the first mentions of it are in the 1980s - it was in the 1985 National Roads England plan, for example, where it's mentioned as "A446 Northern Relief Route" and is listed as being in the early stages of preparation "to ease both congestion on the M6 and to take traffic out of settlements along the A5/A446 corridor between Essington and Coleshill", and the original routing was slightly more southerly on the northern side to link with M54. The decision does not appear to have been made at this point about the motorway status of the road, although the standard was to be a three-lane dual carriageway.

By 1990, it had been confirmed as a motorway (and gained the "Birmingham" prefix), and was going through the Private Finance Initiative tendering stage. It was also shown to be on the present routing.

Then came the wholesale cancelling of many road plans in the mid-1990s. This route survived the cull, but only by being converted into the first full toll-charging motorway in the UK. The rest is history...

Can I comment on this motorway?

Of course! Contact me and I'll put them here!

Have any other visitors commented?

Steve starts us off:

Despite many years of vowing never to do so, I actually used the M6 Toll the other day for the first time ever and it made a refreshing change to be able to get my foot down on a bit of the M6!! The only real pathetic thing about this is the number - and the irritating toll booth where the speed limits change every few hundred yards.

A major positive of this road is that it solves a long-time problem of how to turn between the M42 from the north to the M6 to the east. I agree that it is pathetic calling both roads the M6 - a chance to revive the M64 to its original plan gone astray!

John Phillips isn't very keen on the signage either:

Honestly, I couldn't agree with you more about the signposting of the M6 Toll. From both directions, you have to spend ages checking that you're reading the signs correctly - all time you've got your eye off the road.

 When heading north/west on the M6, the signage is incredibly confusing, given that it also has to include the M42. Even though I've been through dozens of times, I'm still baffled every time.

 The name "M6 Toll" makes it very difficult to read these signs and differentiate it from the M6. It really ought to have had a different name, like the "T6" maybe?

 Oh, and the fact that you have to opt-out of the M6 Toll, rather than opt-in, really bugs me!

Phil Reynolds agrees with me:

This is probably one of the best motorways of all for me - it's the nearest one to Hednesford (where my mother lives) and I am exempt from the toll.

I must, however, agree that, to the uninitiated, the signs are deficient. They really ought to read:

M6 Wolverhampton, Telford (M54)
M6 Toll Lichfield, Cannock

... adding Stafford to both if needed.

Tony Blews sees a wrong righted [May 08]:

There is one minor point about the A446(M) / M6 Toll / BNRR that rights a previous wrong.

Back in the days of yore, M6 Toll's older brother M6 cruelly slashed into the Lancaster Canal three times, causing the Northern Reaches to wither and die.

When the plans for M6 Toll were drawn up, it was noticed that the route would cut across the proposed route for restoration of the Lichfield Canal. The Government stepped in and stopped this attempt by a young upstart to bully an elderly transport system, ruling that no new road scheme could cut into an existing waterway, or a proposed restoration. (http://www.defra.gov.uk/Environment/water/iw/tomorrow/index.htm)

Thus the Lichfield Canal avenged the cruel mutilation of the Lancaster Canal, and the M6 Toll now has an aqueduct which has yet to actually have a canal crossing it.



Birmingham Northern Relief Road





26 miles

42 km





Map Links:

Might Have Been Map

Present Day Map

On other websites:

CBRD Motorway Database

Midland Expressway Limited

The Motorway Archive