It was built using 2.5-million Mills & Boon novels.

Teams of ecologists had to catch and move colonies of water voles living in its path. And its construction workers unearthed the remains of a medieval fish farm.

It is, of course, the M6 Toll Road, one of Britain’s most popular bypasses. This year is the 35th anniversary of the idea of this unique road first being aired. 

We may now think of it as a handy alternative to some of Britain’s most congested motorways but this modern stretch of motorway was a controversial concept at the time.

After the scheme was originally published, it took 23 years of discussions, inquiries and planning before the road finally opened in 2003. Today the controversy is mostly long forgotten. Instead, thousands of drivers know it as a cost-effective and convenient 27-mile shortcut around the north of Birmingham.

The M6 Toll is particularly useful for fleet drivers who use this safe, reliable and jam-free route to bypass a stretch of the ordinary M6 renowned for traffic delays.

A safety control room constantly monitors the Toll Road via CCTV, reacting to traffic conditions, breakdowns and emergencies. In return for the small charge imposed, drivers often find that the free-flowing traffic provides a relaxing and faster alternative to the varied speed regulations and delays of the normal M6.

But 15 years ago, the debate over the Toll Road prompted an extraordinary level of care in its construction. For example, workmen built new dens for otters along its route and made tunnels so badgers could crawl underneath the road. Incredibly, the motorway surface was built on the pulped remains of 2,500,000 romantic novels, which was found to be the ideal material to dampen vibration.

At the time, the M6 Toll seemed to be a pioneering piece of British road development. In fact, however, toll roads have been around for thousands of years.

Historians have found a toll road that existed on the way to Babylon 2,700 years ago and across Europe in medieval times, tollgates were common. Many of Britain’s trunk roads were originally financed by ‘turnpike trusts’ which were ensured that road building and maintenance was paid for by the actual road users, not by general taxation. This is an idea that many still support today.

Discover how you can use your Allstar card to pay for the M6 Toll here

For more details about the M6 Toll Road visit the official site here