Last week I revealed that Transport for London was about to be given the new road tolling powers it had wanted since 2006. I also mentioned that London’s number-plate camera based C-Charge system only managed to make 25p profit for each £5 fee paid. Which, I suppose, is why the fee is now £10.
The irony is that trying to make significant profits from the C-Charge has been surprisingly difficult. Indeed, Mayor Boris introduced an accounts payment system that helped drivers avoid massive late-payment fines, which further reduced the profits of the scheme. It’ll be interesting to see the size of last year’s C-Charge profits, now that the Western Extension zone has been abolished.
With all that in mind, my attention was caught by another tolling story in the Sunday Times. Buried in the Business section, it revealed that the Australian owners of the M6 Toll road are also in financial trouble. Apparently, Macquarie Motorways Group made a loss of £224m in 2011 and the bank that owns the company had to re-write its accounts and reduce the value of the toll road by £150m to £580m.
According to the report, in 2006 global finance company Macquarie decided to increase the loans of the division that runs the M6 Toll road, upping them from £620m to £1bn and banking the £392m windfall. The plan, it seems, was to pay the loan back double quick, as the number of vehicles using the M6 Toll rapidly increased, increasing revenue.