Friday, 28 April 2017 09:58

Councils unite before tolling inquiry

M4 motorway at night. M4 motorway at night.

The Western Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils (WSROC) and Mayors of Penrith and Blacktown were asked to give evidence at a Parliamentary Inquiry into road tolling this month.

WSROC has been calling for a review of Sydney’s toll roads since 2015, but in a recent submission, criticised the current Parliamentary Inquiry for being too narrow in scope.

In its submission WSROC urged the Inquiry to explore a broader range of pricing models such as toll harmonisation across all motorways and journey caps with the aim of ensuring more equitable outcomes for the community.

Fairness and equity considerations were key concerns for Blacktown Mayor Stephen Bali, and Penrith Mayor John Thain, who highlighted that for many Western Sydney commuters using toll roads was not a choice due to a lack of public transport or toll-free alternatives.

Mayor Thain said “[Western Sydney] residents have no other choice but to use roads to get to work. If you have a cap on rail you should have a cap on tolls. It should be the same opportunity for those that have no other choice.

“Soon they won’t be able to go on any road that doesn’t have a toll,” he said.

Mayor Bali supported these statements stating “Opal cards have a cap of around $3000 a year, why shouldn’t tolls be capped?

“It comes back to the NSW Government having the ability to properly negotiate contracts at the time these tollways are being considered.

“The NSW Government has a responsibility to deliver transport, roads and rail for all residents of Sydney. Basic transport delivery should not be a privilege reserved for those who can afford it,” he said.

WSROC CEO Charles Casuscelli highlighted that there are significant inequities even within the Western Sydney region.

“The issue is there has been a history of motor ways with their own financial arrangements. Depending on where you come from within Western Sydney – North, West or South – you can pay between $0 and around $40 a day to get to and from your job in the east,” said Mr Casuscelli.

“Every link has an additional toll imposed and they all add up. We need a better system. There should be a cap on the journey from home to work and back the other way – reflecting how people use the network.

“The just ‘user-pays’ model should be rejected outright for a modern road network – we have known for a long time that infrastructure projects benefit more than just their immediate users,” he said.

“While it is true that the WestConnex may benefit Western Sydney road users, it will also benefit communities of the inner west who will have trucks taken off their local roads, dramatic reductions in through traffic, less pollution as well as increased amenity and safety.

“The project will also benefit wider Sydney by reducing congestion and improving efficiencies. The Federal and NSW Governments both acknowledge the benefits to the national and state economies from WestConnex, so we believe it is legitimate to ask why are just road users being asked to finance it?” said Mr Casuscelli.

The Parliamentary Inquiry will hold one further hearing on 22 May 2017. Following this hearing, the committee overseeing the Inquiry will prepare a report for the NSW Government to consider.

 

Related information:

WSROC submission to the Parliamentary Inquiry into road tolling (3 March, 2017)

Blacktown City Council submission to the Parliamentary Inquiry into road tolling (28 February, 2017)

Penrith City Council submission to the Parliamentary Inquiry into road tolling (27 February, 2017)

Report on proceedings - Inquiry into road tolling (Penrith, 12 April, 2017, 2.00pm)

Channel 7 News - M4 Drivers face extra $2000 fee under new toll prices

Channel 10 News - Calls for weekly cap

Fairfax Community News - Penrith, Blacktown mayors call for more toll equity and caps

Last modified on Tuesday, 02 May 2017 12:45