The Government has released its response to last year’s Upper House Road Tolling Inquiry.
To summarise, the Inquiry found that: People can’t afford the tolls.
To which the Government responded: Neither can we. Sucks to be you.
(The words used were more flowery than that: “Without [tolls], the roads Sydney needs would not be built”.)
Which all raises the question: if Western Sydney’s toll roads aren’t affordable for drivers, or for governments, then why do we keep building them?
The answer is: to pay for roads being built in Eastern Sydney. According to the Government, “user pays … includes instances where the user of one toll road is subsidising the cost of another toll road”
The government does not explain why it’s fair for Western Sydney drivers to subsidise Eastern Sydney drivers.
The government goes on to claim that “Road users … are prepared to pay a toll.”
As if there were a choice.
Road users might be prepared to pay a toll that’s fair, but the current toll is not fair.
The toll is too expensive, goes up too fast, and stays on for too long.
Motorists are being forced to pay $4.74 to save a couple of minutes, compared to the old freeway.
You have to be making a fair amount per hour before that becomes a fair price, and it’s only going to get more expensive.
The price is going to go up by 4% a year, more than twice as fast as salaries are rising.
Even at the current price, the M4 expansion will have been paid off after 2 or 3 years of tolls.
But M4 motorists will be paying 40 years of tolls.
Many motorists are already unable to pay the current toll.
Putting the toll on the M4 has reduced the number of vehicles using the M4 and increased the number using other roads.
All that has been done is to make one road a bit faster, at the cost of making other roads slower.
As a ‘solution’ to Sydney’s traffic problems, this is about as effective as rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.
What Western Sydney Motorists need is for the Government and the Opposition to:
- reduce the toll to a fair level, and
- promise to lift the toll entirely, once the expansion is paid off.
Nothing short of that is fair to Western Sydney.
The Inquiry’s report is here.
The Government’s response is here.