Surface problems cause speed restrictions on toll motorway

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The Independent Online

It was nearly 25 years in the planning and cost £900m but yesterday the new Birmingham Northern Relief Road looked like any other part of Britain's clogged-up motorway network.

Cones blocked off two lanes of the road that was supposed to end congestion on the M6 by letting cars speed unhindered past the West Midlands conurbation.

Instead drivers trundled down the southbound carriageway of Britain's first toll motorway after they hit the brakes to obey a 50mph speed restriction imposed by Midland Expressway Ltd.

The company that unveiled the apparent solution to the Midlands' traffic problems just five weeks ago was forced to introduce the restrictions because of an "unevenness" discovered in the road surface.

MEL, which has been accused of pricing tolls to discourage lorries likely to damage the pristine new surface, imposed the speed limit on a 100-metre section of the road near Sutton Coldfield.

It said the problem was not serious, but would take about 10 days to put right. An MEL spokesman said that "traffic management" was installed on the southbound carriageway "in readiness for remedial work on the road surfacing".

Since the 27-mile BNRR opened last month about 35,000 vehicles have been using it daily, compared with 180,000 on the normal M6.