Opinion

Something must be done about toll roads

By now, the excitement from the New Year celebrations has well and truly evaporated and we continue getting on with the job. One of those jobs for the TWU is to call on the reasonably new Roads Minister in NSW, Natalie Ward to pick up where other roads ministers have not and address out-of-control toll road costs. 

On January 1, Transurban Linkt toll roads went up in cost, again. 

On April 1 they will go up again and that is not an April Fool’s joke. On July 1 they will again increase, and they will continue to do so for some roads like the NorthConnex for years to come. 

At the beginning of the year, the cost for a heavy vehicle to use the NorthConnex tunnel has gone up to $25.33 and is on track to be $35 one-way by 2030 and almost $74 one-way in 25 years’ time. 

NSW Roads Minister Natalie Ward.

That is nothing short of complete madness. 

With a $194 fine in place for heavy vehicle operators who avoid the NorthConnex, it’s clear that coercion is the only way the NSW Government and Transurban can get people to use their overpriced toll roads.

The ongoing increases in the costs of Transurban Linkt toll roads continue to create an enormous financial burden for all transport workers. While just about every operating cost for owner-drivers has steadily increased over the years, none has increased more than toll roads. 

Last year, in a NSW Parliamentary inquiry the TWU revealed that Toll – the biggest freight company in Australia – has instructed its workforce to not use toll roads because “in most cases, the cost of the toll roads outweighs any benefit we receive from using them”.

So it’s clear that Sydney’s out-of-control toll road crisis has reached new heights, with the transport industry beginning to boycott toll roads altogether due to the exorbitant costs.

Other toll roads operated by Transurban Linkt have also increased their cost of use from the start of the year.  

The TWU has done the maths and the bottom line is that the cost of every toll road in Sydney will be at least double (and in some cases closer to triple) for heavy vehicles by 2048, compared to today. While Transurban is collecting millions in profits on the backs of transport workers, it is safe to say heavy vehicle operator incomes are unlikely to increase by 2-3 times in the next 26 years. 

Transurban, recently admitted at a parliamentary inquiry to collecting more than $2 billion in toll revenue from Sydney drivers.

The NSW government has refused to provide toll road relief for heavy vehicle operators and has continually failed to consult with heavy vehicle operators or their representative the TWU. 

Toll relief is needed along with caps on costs, which would provide certainty. The TWU is ramping up the fight

A new Roads Minister presents the perfect opportunity to provide meaningful toll relief to owner-drivers and all road users.

Richard Olsen is the TWU state secretary for Queensland and NSW.

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