M6 Toll sold to Australian investment group IFM

The M6 Toll has been bought by Australian-based investment group IFM, owners of Manchester Airports Group, Anglian Water and communications infrastructure group Arqiva.

IFM, which is owned by several pension funds, acquired the toll road from Macquarie, the Australian group that built the road. The road was put up for sale last year with a price tag of almost £2bn after a consortium of 27 banks took over ownership from Macquarie. 

The UK’s only toll motorway, stretching 27 miles from Cannock to Coleshill, opened in 2003 but has always lost money. IFM will continue to run the M6 Toll through the Midlands Expressway company which has operated the motorway since it opened. As part of the deal, two IFM directors have been appointed to the Midlands Expressway board - Deepu Chintamaneni, an IFM investment director based in London and Manok Mehta, IFM’s executive director for European infrastructure projects. 

IFM will hope that they can get the road to turn a profit for the first time in its 14-year history. They will be encouraged by the most recent figures for the toll road which show that average daily traffic between January and March was 44,942 - up from 42,045 last year. The weekday price for cars is currently £5.50 and £11 for HGVs. 

When the toll road was put up for sale there was pressure from some quarters for the government to consider nationalising the road and scrapping the toll, bringing the motorway into the national network. With the latest development, that would appear to be off the agenda.

The M6 Toll has always made a loss as the income it raises from users is dwarfed by the huge £900m mortgage debt taken on to construct it in the first place. Although full details of the IFM purchase have not been revealed, it is believed that the debt restructuring process that saw the consortium of banks take over ownership from Macquarie and the sale to IFM has seen that debt effectively wiped out. 

The new owners will be hoping that the road can make a profit from the toll for the first time since it was opened. The Midlands Expressway business has the concession to run the road until 2054, when it is due to be handed back to the UK government.

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