Tunnel vision on Sydney tolls

There is little doubt that the NorthConnex tunnel into and out of Sydney has eased traf- fic congestion and cut down travelling time, for trucks in particular.

NorthConnex is a 9km twin tunnel that links the M1 Pacific Motorway at Wahroonga to the Hills M2 Motorway at West Pennant Hills in Sydney.

During my recent trip to NSW I spoke to scores of truckies who praised the tunnel because it has cut travelling time since it opened on October 31, 2020.

But with every good thing comes a cost and small fleet owners and owner-operators tell me the toll costs are prohibitive.

“The toll is $27.17 for trucks and added to rising fuel prices it is a big hit for us,” one told me.

However, truckies who are employed by companies had a different opinion.

“I don’t care as the company pays the tolls. The tunnel is a huge positive for us as it can take 15 to 30 minutes off a trip,” a truckie said.

Toll prices are valid from January 1, 2023 and are adjusted quarterly in line with the concession agreement with the NSW Government, and will continue until 2048.

The government estimates that up to 5000 trucks are taken off Pennant Hills Road each day, saving nearly 15 minutes off travel time during rush hours.

Truckies told me that can be up to 30 minutes. Drivers can also avoid 40 sets of traffic lights on the Pacific Highway, or 21 sets of traffic lights between the M1 and M2.

I was driving through the tunnel in January and had the radio on when a speaker from the control centre cut in and advised there had been a minor accident and there could be delays.

It is all very high tech.

However, only small trucks now qualify for the NSW government’s toll relief rebate that kicked off last week.

Motorists who spend more than $375 a year on tolls will be able to claim a 40 per cent rebate on up to $750.

Sole traders may be eligible for an additional rebate of $750, up to a total of $1500. Applications for sole traders open on February 28.

Metropolitan Roads Minister Natalie Ward is quoted as saying: “We know Western Sydney families, workers, tradies, and truckies are amongst the biggest users of our motorways because of the time savings they deliver.”

However, as Road Freight NSW rightly pointed out in its latest newsletter to members, there’s more than a few hoops to jump through to be eligible, one of which is:

  • To have accrued the tolls on a vehicle that’s registered in NSW, and is below 2794kg TARE weight.

In effect, couriers and last mile vans and small trucks.

“This toll relief rebate scheme offers nothing for the rest of the trucking industry,” said CEO Simon O’Hara.

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