Motorists gouged by escalating toll road charges

By Leith van Onselen

While residents of Sydney and Melbourne are suffering from crush-loaded roads, trains, schools, and hospitals, as well as hideously expensive housing, toll road companies like Transurban are making out like bandits.

Earlier this year, ABC News reported that Sydney’s toll road network is the most expensive and extensive in the world:

…transport experts have given the city the dubious honour of having the most extensive — and expensive — urban toll road network in the world.

Sydney has nine toll roads that include a total of 15 toll points, and will soon have even more when motorways under construction are completed.

Currently, motorists are charged when driving on the:

  • M2
  • new M4 WestConnex
  • M5
  • M7
  • M4
  • Eastern Distributor
  • Cross-City Tunnel
  • Lane Cove Tunnel
  • Sydney Harbour Bridge
  • Sydney Harbour Tunnel

There will be at least six additional tolls between now and 2023 upon completion of the:

  • M4 tunnels
  • M5 (from Beverly Hills to St Peters)
  • M5 East (Beverly Hills to General Holmes Drive)
  • M4-M5 link
  • NorthConnex

“In terms of the kilometres of tolls in the urban area, Sydney has the most in the world,” said Chinh Ho, senior lecturer with the Institute of Transport Logistics Studies at the University of Sydney.

“We have an expensive network of toll roads…

Today, The SMH reports that tolls on some of Sydney’s roads are rising at triple the rate of inflation, which is unsustainable given many Sydneysiders were already struggling to pay, prompting calls for the State Government to reassess tolling arrangements:

Against a backdrop of low wage growth, the number of Sydney motorways on which tolls rise by 4 per cent a year will grow with the opening of the first major stage of WestConnex by August, followed next year by the second stage and the $3 billion NorthConnex tunnel.

Tolls on three existing motorways – the widened M4 between Parramatta and Homebush, the M2 and the Eastern Distributor – are also escalating by 4 per cent a year…

Martin Locke, an adjunct professor at the Institute of Transport and Logistics Studies at the University of Sydney, said… “If someone is struggling to pay tolls today, in 10 years time it will be significantly worse if the tolls increase at 4 per cent per annum…

The Grattan Institute’s transport director, Marion Terrill, said she was concerned that the NSW government was continuing to lock in “extremely long-lived arrangements” for toll roads, citing WestConnex’s concession deed lasting until 2060.

This is Australia’s population ponzi economy in action. It’s a model of growth where corporate Australia privatises the gains from mass immigration and socialises the costs on everyone else.

And it’s only going to get worse as our two biggest states double in size to around 10 million people by 2066, as projected by the ABS:

These are the hidden costs of a ‘Big Australia’: in effect giant private taxes, which fatten the ‘growth lobby’s’ wallets at everyone else’s expense.

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