M6toll operator Midland Expressway Ltd (MEL) has announced the departure of Andy Cliffe as chief executive.

The news comes ahead of the addition of MEL to the European toll road and transportation infrastructure portfolio of Aleatica.

The combining of European operations follows Aleatica’s successful investment in Italian toll road operator, Brebemi, in June 2020. Aleatica and MEL are both wholly owned by IFM Global Infrastructure Fund.

MEL confirmed Cliffe will step down at the end of 2021 after more than three successful years. "During his tenure the business has undergone significant transformation and development as part of his ambitious growth plans," it added.

MEL plunged deeper into the red last year, with its most recent accounts revealing a £42m pre-tax loss.

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Turnover dropped by £38m to £51.3m in the year ending 31 December 2020 as traffic on the 27-mile toll road plummeted by 45% due to pandemic-related lockdowns and restrictions.

MEL said Covid-19 has had a “profound impact” on the company but that despite this, traffic volumes responded positively to the easing of restrictions.

Bridget Rosewell, Chair of MEL, said: “We would like to thank Andy for his hard work and dedication to Midland Expressway. Andy leaves Midland Expressway a much stronger organisation, creating the vision and delivering on the strategy and growth plan for which he was brought into the business.”

Cliffe said: “I am proud of the transformation the whole team at Midland Expressway has delivered and thank every one of them for all their hard work in delivering on the work we set out to do over three years ago. I will watch its development with interest and wish the whole IFM Global Infrastructure Fund group every success for the future. I now look forward to my next challenge.”

Earlier this year, Maritime Transport said it had become the first firm to trial the toll road’s new ANPR-based charging system, designed to drive growth on the motorway.