Opinion

Let’s look at ways of making NorthConnex use fairer

northconnex protest

The NorthConnex tunnel is claimed to be a ‘game changer’ by a vast number of politicians wheeled out to sing the tunnel’s praises.

The toll road tunnel, which opened on October 31, is the latest in toll road pain levelled at the transport industry through a cosy deal created between Transurban and the NSW Government.

Here’s a real “game changer” idea: how about some relief for transport workers who are facing a huge set of problems after being forced onto a private road at the exclusion of a public road.

There is no reason why relief cannot be provided by Transurban and the NSW Government to the transport industry.

So far there has been no serious attempt to address the needs of the “little fella” at the end of the supply chain, there is no duty of care as they struggle through a pandemic.

The exploitative 40-plus year deal between Transurban and the NSW Government means that drivers also cop an increase of the toll cost by one percent per quarter.

We have concerns this may well lead to many smaller businesses in the transport industry to bleed out.

The NSW Government and Transurban are on notice, meet with the TWU and come and hear firsthand how those on the road are struggling every day.

Drivers are incurring more than considerable costs in fuel, rego and insurances and now tolls.

There is no cost recovery for those forced onto a toll road. The economic investment that this and other toll roads are claimed to be is a misguided ideal from the NSW Government.

Expenses for truck drivers, the costs of having a job in transport, are on the increase. Maintaining the overpriced toll road rort just adds to the pain they already feel.

A week ago, I stood beside Rob Woolley, a Mt Kuring-Gai based fleet operator who now faces a $50,000 toll road bill that he has never before had to pay.

Now NorthConnex is open, a new cost is forced on his business. We have other members who tell us it will cost them $250 a week to transport their truck just to start work. These are costs which are not recoverable by a client.

Let’s look at ways of making the road fairer. Overnight, Pennant Hills road is nearly empty. Can we not provide a freedom of choice to drivers to use the road then, and allow them to choose to not have to pay tolls?

NorthConnex sets a dangerous precedent for our industry, leaving open the continued discrimination against truck drivers as further infrastructure plans are announced in NSW.

  • Richard Olsen is the State Secretary of TWU NSW and a regular Big Rigs columnist.
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