Fight for toll relief for truckies on NorthConnex continues

northconnex protest against toll

Truckies should know early next month if they have to pay the $23.71 to use the controversial new NorthConnex tunnel in Sydney.

That’s when Labor’s Toll-Free Period Bill returns to NSW Parliament for a final vote after a heated debate in the bill’s second reading earlier this month.

NSW Labor Leader Jodi McKay said tolls are a heavy burden for both commuters and the transport industry during a recession.

“We’re calling on the Government to back the Bill. We want toll free periods to be in place before NorthConnex opens in coming months,” McKay said.

“NorthConnex is the first toll road in NSW where truck drivers will pay a toll or pay a fine. There is no free road alternative and that’s not fair.

“We are in a recession. Workers, families and businesses are all struggling. Motorists and truck drivers shouldn’t have to shoulder the burden of this Government’s budget mismanagement.”

The Shadow Minister for Roads John Graham said the bill aims to help drivers adapt to new routes and reduce the risk of dangerous, last-minute lane changes by motorists trying to avoid the charges.

“We want this in place to ensure the opening of NorthConnex goes smoothly. The last thing the public wants is last-minute lane changes or traffic chaos involving heavy vehicles.”

“The Government campaigned on the principle of toll free periods to win Government, now we want them to implement it.”

Once gazetted, the Bill would have immediate effect.

Other toll roads yet to open that could be impacted by the bill are Westconnex Stage 3 (M4-M5 Link), the M6 Stage 1 and the Western Harbour Tunnel and Beaches Link.

The Transport Workers’ Union is also calling for the NSW Government to cushion the industry impact.

“Transport workers in heavy vehicles are being banned from Pennant Hills Road and are forced to use the NorthConnex or they will be fined. Neither transport workers, the people of NSW had no say in the toll road deals between Transurban and the NSW Government, which leaves us and our children in debt for the next 50 years,” said Richard Olsen, NSW TWU state secretary.

“Transurban are taking money faster than transport workers can earn it. Our members face high administration fees and higher toll charges for heavy vehicles. Our members are frustrated and are losing their family’s income for the profits of a private company with a cosy deal with the NSW Government.”

Transurban has announced that NorthConnex prices will continue to increase by 4 percent each year even though the Australian economy is in recession, added Olsen.

In his second reading speech to NSW Parliament about the toll free bill, Transport Minister Andrew Constance said he understands freight companies and heavy vehicle operators are facing challenges.

“But the reason that these toll roads exist is to reduce the amount of time that trucks travel on the road network,” he said.

“One of the benefits is maintenance. I think around 21 or so traffic lights were taken out on Pennant Hills Road. Stopping and starting at all of those traffic lights creates a lot of wear and tear on vehicles.

“There is a very real safety benefit that comes with getting trucks off Pennant Hills Road and into the tunnel, which was part of the decision-making process in the years that have gone by on this project.”

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