Labor's push for toll-free periods on all new, major toll roads

NSW Labor is fighting for changes to the law by mandating toll-free periods on all new, major NSW toll roads. Picture: Simon Bennett
NSW Labor is fighting for changes to the law by mandating toll-free periods on all new, major NSW toll roads. Picture: Simon Bennett

Shadow Roads Minister John Graham will today present a bill to the NSW Upper House to mandate toll-free periods on all new, major NSW toll roads.

The toll on from King Georges Road to General Holmes Drive coincided with opening of the new M8 motorway with the eight kilometre twin tunnels running from from Kingsgrove to St Peters.

The distance-based toll is $6.95 for cars and $20.86 for trucks.

Campbelltown MP and opposition spokesman for western Sydney Greg Warren has backed calls for a toll-free grace period to be introduced on the M5 East Motorway.

Mr Warren said motorists were being slugged more than $70 per week for five round trips or more than $200 per week for heavy vehicles.

"Let's make this crystal clear - this is an unjust and unnecessary tax being thrust upon the people of South-West Sydney," Mr Warren said.

"Our community does not welcome this new tax, I do not welcome this new tax, Liberal Party councillors do not welcome this new tax and the NSW Labor Party does not welcome this new tax.

"Everyone is fully aware that there is a deadly pandemic that is present in our community."

Mr Warren said many workers were shunning public transport and driving to work to minimise the risk of catching COVID-19.

"Introducing the new toll on the old M5 East Motorway at this time is simply profiteering off a deadly pandemic," he said.

"A toll-free grace period is the very least this heartless and greedy government can do."

The new bill comes as Liverpool Council took a united stand against the state government over the new toll on the previously untolled section of the M5 East.

Labor Councillor Nathan Hagarty's notice of motion at last week's council meeting received unanimous support and was seconded by Liberal colleague Tony Hadchiti.

The motion called on the state government to introduce a range of measures to alleviate the financial burden of the new tolls, including a cashback scheme, a grace period or scrapping the toll altogether.

"The community response has been overwhelming. Residents and local businesses are furious with the state government for this greedy cash grab," Cr Hagarty said.

"If you're as angry as I am about this, call, write and email your local MPs and tell them what you think and about this lousy decision.

"The more voices we get on board, the more likely it is the state government will reverse this terribly unfair decision.

"Now even Liberals are queuing to oppose 'toll-mania'. Liverpool Liberal councillors support a toll-free period and oppose the new toll on the old M5 East."

Werriwa MP Anne Stanley with Liverpool councillors Nathan Hagarty and Charishma Kaliyanda.

Werriwa MP Anne Stanley with Liverpool councillors Nathan Hagarty and Charishma Kaliyanda.

The bill - which would require the Minister to declare a toll-free period when a new toll road opens - will be introduced on Tuesday and is expected to be read a second time in the Legislative Council on Wednesday.

If the bill is gazetted, the law is expected to be changed ahead of the opening of the Northconnex toll road in September.

Werriwa MP Anne Stanley said the new toll had been levied even though the road ha not been upgraded.

"For drivers who need to use the road five days a week, this will cost approximately $3,300 and will have to be absorbed into already strained budgets," she said.

"The tolls will then continue to increase by 4 per cent each year."

When the M8 opened in July, a Transport for NSW spokesman said the M8 tunnels would double the capacity on one of Sydney's most congested routes.

"This change was first announced in 2015 as part of the planning and community engagement for this vital $4.3 billion project. The M5 East was not built to handle the number of cars and trucks that rely on it daily," the spokesman said.

"The M5 East carries about 100,000 vehicles a day, and the toll reflects the significant travel time improvements many of these motorists will experience as a direct result of the M8.

"For example, motorists will save up to 30 minutes between Liverpool and south Sydney, with average travel times halved and peak hour speeds doubled.

"To prepare for the M8 a number of surface and in-tunnel works have been completed, including major surface works at Kingsgrove and resurfacing of the M5 East tunnels."

The spokesman said toll prices were set in long-term, legally binding contracts between the NSW government and motorway companies.

This story Labor's push for toll-free periods on all new, major toll roads first appeared on Campbelltown-Macarthur Advertiser.