Tuesday, 12 March 2024 09:23

Western Sydney councils welcome Fels motorway toll review recommendations Featured

The M4 Motorway at the Cumberland Highway overpass The M4 Motorway at the Cumberland Highway overpass WSROC

The peak body representing councils in Greater Western Sydney, the Western Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils (WSROC), has welcomed the findings of the independent review of motorway toll pricing across Sydney, announced on Monday (11 March).

Led by Professor Allan Fels (former chair of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission) and Dr David Cousins, the review was set up by the NSW Government in 2023 to examine the basis for setting motorway tolls in Sydney.

The review has concluded that toll reform is preferable to toll relief schemes, which the report says are “expensive and more likely to be claimed by drivers from middle and high-income households”.

Other recommendations of the review include:

  • Using legislation to allow the government to take back control of tolls,
  • Giving the independent pricing regulator “significant oversight” in setting the price of tolls,
  • Charging motorists less the longer they drive on toll roads, and
  • Two-way tolling on the Sydney Harbour Bridge, Harbour Tunnel and Eastern Distributor.

“WSROC has been advocating for a review of road tolls over many years, urging the government to make toll roads simpler and fairer,” said WSROC President, Councillor Barry Calvert.

“The people of Western Sydney are more greatly impacted by tolling issues than other parts of Sydney, due to their greater dependence on private vehicles resulting from Western Sydney’s lack of equivalent public transport coverage and capacity.E Toll tag

“Also, on average, Western Sydney residents travel further to access jobs, services, and recreation.

“As a result, tolls represent the second largest cost for most households in Western Sydney.

“In effect, road tolls and the fuel excise constitute a regressive tax, which greatly and disproportionately burden working families in Western Sydney, already contending with soaring energy costs, rents, and food price inflation.

WSROC is calling for:

  • A fairer tolling system: including ‘Journey Caps’ (for commuters) and ‘Daily Caps’ (for small business operators such as couriers). Fairness, equity and consistency must be a prime consideration in setting appropriate toll charges across the entire tolled motorway network.
  • Clarity and transparency: Toll roads are a major burden on individual households, and many people have no choice but to use them. Residents deserve transparency regarding road pricing.
  • Smart tolls: Modern technology allows for different charges for different people depending on where they start and finish their journey, the time of day, whether drivers are on a low income, etc.
  • More road revenue is invested in Western Sydney’s public transport network: So that commuters have a viable choice of travel mode.

“As has been consistently identified by previous NSW Government tolling inquiries, the methods for setting road tolls lack transparency and are highly project-based, resulting in variable outcomes that do not reflect user benefits, nor transport charges across the rest of the network,” said Councillor Calvert.

“Any review of the tolls on Sydney’s roads network must consider that Western Sydney residents are presently effectively subsidising transport infrastructure upgrades for more affluent parts of the city, both in terms of the taxes they pay and for the lack of transport services our resident can access.

“In the longer term, the question that continues to be avoided by politicians of all colours is ‘how do we charge for the use of roads when the fuel excise is no longer sufficient to maintain our roads let alone expand our road network as our population grows?’.”

“This is already happening as the users of hybrid and especially all-electric vehicles are not contributing to the maintenance of our roads through the fuel excise.

“WSROC recommends that a bi-partisan political approach be adopted to ensure the best outcomes for communities, whether public transport users or motorists and that will have the best chance of success for adoption in due course.

“We would also urge that any proposed ‘best practice’ road usage charging model be trialled or piloted with community participation before it is finally adopted.”

“True road-tolling reform must, by its very nature, require a bipartisan approach across the Federal and State Governments.

“It will not be properly done otherwise because of the fundamental changes required across the policy platform of both levels of government.

“This latest report is an opportunity to begin the path of reform to ensure a sustainable and fairer toll system, or we just kick the can down the motorway for our children to solve!

“While our 160-kilometre toll road network urgently needs reform, there is also the question of fairer arrangements for how motorists that drive hybrid and electric vehicles access and pay for non-tolled roads.

“Unlike other motorists that pay via fuel excise, EV owners pay almost nothing for using the non-tolled part of our road network that comprises over 178,000 kilometres of state roads — and this represents over 99 per cent of the NSW road network!”

Last modified on Tuesday, 12 March 2024 10:21

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