Opinion

Modern day bush rangers strike again with NSW toll hike

I am writing this column on April Fool’s Day. Today, Transurban and the NSW Government have raised the costs of toll roads across Sydney, as they do every quarter year.

The TWU put a post on Facebook highlighting the quarterly rise and we cannot help but agree with the following response: “Transport for NSW and Transurban are like modern day bush rangers doing highway robbery all over Sydney”.

The NSW Government and the publicly listed company Transurban have set up a deal, that leaves us in debt for our future.

The deal lasts for decades and was set in concrete with no consultation to our industry, to drivers or the members of the public that use the roads. Backing up the deal, the NSW Government and Transurban provide spin that suggests their roads like the NorthConnex tunnel are good for the industry.

They tell us the congestion busting benefits of NorthConnex create a benefit to the economy and the bottom line of any transport business. Clearly, the people who think that are rarely caught on roads like the M2 and M5 in congestion periods.

At the TWU, we have on record companies and drivers, small and large business operators, talking about the impact that toll road costs have on their business.

When NorthConnex opened, one operator told us of the new cost his business faced, $50,000 over a year because he was on the wrong side of the NorthConnex.

There is still no free alternative to the NorthConnex, and the gantry cameras, designed to fine truck drivers who would like to use Pennant Hills Road, are now operational and stinging truck drivers with a fine, definitely highway robbery.

The money you pass over for doing your job, goes to Transurban. Transurban do pass a significant amount of cash each year to their CEO, dividends to shareholders, and drop some money into community programs, but in general, there is no support for the transport industry, not even for financial hardship.

Maybe Transurban can consider taking on a share of the responsibility for a safer transport industry, build some rest areas perhaps. The NSW Government appear to need the support.

In March, Transport for NSW fronted a Budget Estimates Committee in NSW Parliament. In answers to questions by the NSW Opposition’s Mick Veitch, Transport for NSW told us where rest areas were up to.

I quote: “Transport for NSW has now established a project team that is looking at heavy vehicle rest stops as a strategic challenge that we need to be addressing. That has progressed to the point where we have now done—we are looking at having a strategic business plan produced later in the year.”

Where you need to pull off the road, is not yet a “strategic business plan”. I would not be looking to the NSW Government for answers on rest areas soon.

The Regional Transport and Roads Minister Paul Toole told the same committee, “We have a lot of heavy vehicles out there and the numbers will only increase with the amount of freight movement over the years to come.”

In that case, Transport for NSW had better get a move on.

Tell the TWU about rest areas in our survey. Go to https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/restareas.

  • Richard Olsen is the TWU NSW State Secretary.
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