First toll motorway approved

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Britain's first toll motorway will open in 2004, the Government has announced.

Britain's first toll motorway will open in 2004, the Government has announced.

The Birmingham Relief Road will cost £600 to build and will run from the M42 in Coleshill, Warwickshire, to the M6 near Cannock, Staffordshire.

The Government approved the scheme after seeing the finance arrangements of constructor Midland Expressway Limited (MEL), which has already signed the contracts for the controversial project.

Announcing the arrangements, Transport Minister Lord Whitty said: "This road has been 20 years in the planning.

"I am now pleased to be able to congratulate Midland Expressway Limited (MEL) for putting together a much needed highway project and in securing the contracting and financing for it within a very tight timetable."

But the decision has been condemned by environmentalists who said the 27-mile motorway would add to congestion in the area and wreck miles of greenbelt land.

Gerald Kells, of West Midlands Friends of the Earth, said: "New Labour claimed they'd learnt that building endless motorways was a Tory mistake and they had a new transport policy which would end this kind of eco-destruction for short-term gains.

"The Birmingham Northern Relief Road shows they haven't learnt their lesson. Carving up the countryside won't solve congestion, it'll just build up bigger problems further down the line."

The organisation recently claimed a European ruling to introduce VAT on toll roads in member states would also affect its viability and "shuffle around traffic jams" on A-roads and motorways.

The design and construction contract is between MEL and the CAMBBA Construction Group, a joint venture between Carillion, Alfred McAlpine, Balfour Beatty and AMEC.