Current tolling arrangements in western Sydney are placing the burden of motorway funding upon the region's motorists, with commuters paying top dollar to travel to and from work and experiencing wildly inconsistent tolling costs.
60 per cent of workers currently commute outside of Western Sydney for work. Without access to viable public transport alternatives, our region's workers pay a hefty price to be stuck in the traffic. While Covid-19 has changed work travel in some industries, for many small businesses, road use has increased - and with it the costs in tolls.
Costs also vary widely across the region's tolling system. Currently, motorists travelling from Liverpool to the City along M5/Eastern Distributor will pay $19.88 for a 39km journey, with an M5 rebate of $4.85. Meanwhile, a trip from Quakers Hill to the City along M2/LaneCove Tunnel/Harbour Bridge costs $20.33 for a 45 km journey. However, driving from Mount Druitt to the City along the M4/WestConnex will incur tolls of just $8.20 for a 42km journey.
Currently, the NSW Government offers some incentives to temper the toll on Western Sydney motorists; for example, the M5 rebate refunds a portion of the cost to private motorists for using the motorway. As well as this, motorists who spend more than $15 and $25 per week on tolls Sydney-wide can access half-priced and full priced registration, respectively.
However, these measures do not begin to compensate for a daily commute of $40-plus one way, nor do they offer pricing transparency or a reasonable attempt to cap the amount of tolls payable. These are both recommendations that emerged from the NSW Government's 2017 Parliamentary Inquiry into Sydney's toll network.
A fairer approach could include a harmonised tolling framework across all of Sydney's motorways, and include considerations such as a journey cap, time of day variations, and rebates for disadvantaged groups.
Motorways are part of living in any cosmopolitan city, but they should not unduly penalise certain areas of the city over others. As the future hub for Greater Sydney and the engine room of the state, Western Sydney deserves an equitable approach to the key issues of transport infrastructure from the NSW Government; including a more efficient, fair and sustainable tolling system that does not plunder the region's pockets.
WSROC calls for the NSW Government to investigate a fairer tolling system: one that is transparent, supports local business, and offers fair compensation for motorists that do not have the option to access public transport to travel to work.