Sick of Diversions? Build your own Toll Road

Monday, 01 September 2014

Businessman Mike Watts runs a party supply shop in Bath, but when a landslip forced the closure of a main road linking the city with nearby Bristol, he decided to take matters into his own hands.

Following the destruction of a large section of the A431 in Kelston, Somerset, Bath & North East Somerset Council's set up a 14-mile diversion while plans were made to fix it. However, their eventual promise to have the road completed by Christmas 2014 wasn't good enough for Watts.

Talking to The Guardian, Watts says he was talking to his friend John Dinham in the pub one evening, when it emerged that he owned the adjacent field to the damaged road: and had been allowing local 4x4 owners drive across his field while repairs were in progress. At this point Watts, or rather his wife Wendy, realised they could build a toll road.

Working with Dinham, the couple spent a total of £150,000 laying the gravel track across the field, and they expect to spend the same amount again on maintenance while the new road is being built. Now complete, the road has a 3.5 tonne limit and is strictly not for HGVs, but all other drivers are welcome to use it.

The standard toll is £2, or £1 for motorbikes, and the road has full liability cover: so there are no extra car insurance concerns when taking this self-made shortcut. Even better, as Watts is fond of pointing out, "there is the most amazing view of the river Avon going through the valley. It is worth £2 just to see that."

And it's not just Watts and a string of newspapers taking the toll road seriously. The council have officially changed their stance after a once frosty reception, with officials now promising proper signage to ensure locals are aware of the convenience built by their neighbour.

Elsewhere, Google has already given the toll road its seal of approval, having included the new track on Google Maps. Now we just have to hope that the road gets the 1,000 drivers per day it needs for the altruistic entrepreneurs to break even.


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