Sydney’s patchwork toll road solution that neither party wants to talk about

The reason for the lack of a solution is simple. In order to introduce a consistent and fair toll system for Sydney’s extensive motorway network, taxpayers will have to pay massive compensation payments to Transurban, which controls 11 of the city’s 15 existing toll roads.


Transurban has repeatedly stated that it is open to discussions about modernizing toll systems, but that it cannot make its shareholders worse off.

Explaining the cost of concerted reform, former NSW Transport Secretary Andrew Constance summed it up best when he warned two years ago that changes to the concession charter would “raise very, very significant claims against the taxpayer”.

In most cases, these agreements last for decades. Those for M2, Lane Cove Tunnel, Eastern Distributor and NorthConnex will not expire until 2048, while WestConnex’s charter will expire in 2060. As part of a deal with Transurban to build additional lanes and a motorway interchange, the government recently agreed to extend the M7 charter by three years to 2051.

For the foreseeable future, the two major parties will resort to subsidized motorists who regularly pay tolls that cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars each year.

Voters should expect to hear more sparring over motorway tolls on Wednesday when Prime Minister Dominic Perrottet and Opposition Leader Chris Minns go head-to-head in a debate hosted by the herald and nine.

Just don’t expect to hear a real solution.

The Morning Edition Newsletter is our guide to the day’s most important and interesting stories, analysis and insights. Login here. Sydney’s patchwork toll road solution that neither party wants to talk about

Justin Scacco

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