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Toll Roads in the UK and Abroad

Toll roads are public or private roads where you pay a ‘toll’ to gain access to it. In a sense, a toll is simply a tax that goes towards the maintenance of the bridges, motorways and smaller roads that criss-cross the country. Across the UK they are located in all areas, mostly on bridges crossing rivers. Although your first thought might be to try and avoid them, this can often be more costly in the long run because of the increased amount of petrol you would have to buy to travel further distances. This guide will take you through everything you need to know about toll roads, where they are, how to pay, and how they work abroad.

In this guide:

What are toll roads?

Up until recently, attempting to drive across the UK would be difficult and take a significant amount of time. Upgrades to roads and bridges have made it easier, but there is a cost to doing so. Toll roads are a way of paying for this - they are essentially a tax on drivers, paying a small fee to go on a motorway or cross a bridge in order to pay for maintenance. The growing population plus underinvestment means that they are likely to become the norm in the future, and therefore it is important to understand how they work before beginning a long journey.

How much do toll roads cost?

There is no one cost to a toll road, as it depends on a variety of factors. Firstly, it depends on what vehicle you are driving. Small vehicles such as motorcycles will pay far less than HGVs. Secondly, it depends on the time of day. Peak times will be more congested, and therefore the pricing structures go up. Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, it simply depends on the type of road that you are attempting to travel on. Generally, a toll will cost between £1-2, but the most expensive in the UK currently is the M6 Toll which costs £5.50 per car.

Where are there toll roads in the UK?

In the UK, there is no specific area where toll roads are concentrated. There are 23 in total, with 18 of these being river crossings. Some of them are well known, such as the M6 Toll and the Dartford Crossing, but many are obscure and you will not know specifically. With the majority of these being river crossings, they will often be the only way to complete your journey, and therefore it’s essential to check your route before you leave to make sure you have money to hand to pay them.

Should I avoid toll roads?

Often, this will not be possible as it could be the only way to get across a river without adding a long time to your journey. For the price of a couple of pounds that you would have spent on fuel anyway, it might just be worth it to pay it. On other tolls, however, it could be beneficial to avoid them, so it is important to check alternative routes to see if it’s possible. If you go through a toll and fail to pay it, you can be charged quite severely. For instance, the M25 penalty for non-payment is £70 to be paid back within 28 days, reducing to £35 for early repayment.

What about toll roads abroad?

Toll roads abroad will vary from country to country, so it is important to do your research before you travel as some will not allow you to pay in cash. Instead, there may be automatic number plate recognition, which is the case in places such as Dublin. Countries such as France are covered in toll roads. For example, one study showed that if you are driving from Calais to Nice, you will pay 108 Euros in toll fees alone. Overall, it is important to plan your journey, factoring in the amount of petrol you would have to buy should you choose to try and avoid toll roads.

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