Road works are a pain, especially when it means the detour is 14 miles. Luckily for users of the A431 between Bath and Bristol, an entrepreneur built a toll road bypass – and it’s proving a hit.
The 365-metre toll road in Kelston of Somerset celebrated the 100,000th vehicle to pass through on Sunday, putting it on track to make a profit. It is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week and costs £2 to use. Operational costs are £1000 per day.
62-year-old Mike Watts invested £150,000 of his own money to build the toll road and another £150,000 to maintain it, which runs through two fields next to the road works that have blocked the road since February. He came up with the idea while at the pub.
Watts is already two-thirds of the way through recuperating his investment, but acknowledged there is a race against time as the road works could be finished sooner than anticipated. At which point, the toll road will be demolished and the fields returned to mother nature.
“Essentially, we have to get 150,000 cars over to break even and cover all our costs but we are now pretty confident we are going to do that by early November. We have this race against time because work on the A431 has started and they are publicly saying it will be opening by Christmas, but it could happen earlier,” Watts explained.
The story of the toll road has attracted attention from around the world. Mr Watts described the reception as ‘phenomenal’, adding that a family from Bahrain saw a news story on television and drove to see it for themselves two days later.
Bath and North East Somerset says the A431 repairs are costing between £1.5 and £2 million – a far cry from the £300,000 Watts invested. The entrepreneur hired two fields from friend John Dinham and had three workmen build the toll road in ten days.
“Pretty much everyone has been happy to pay the £2, it really does do what it says on the can – saves people stress, time and driving on the diversion,” Watts concluded.