Camden MP votes against Labor plan for toll-free period on new 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

The NSW Labor party is calling on Liberal MPs who represent the suburbs slugged hardest by new tolls to explain why they didn't support Labor's 'Toll-Free Period' Bill.

Labor leader Jodi McKay and the opposition spokesman for roads, John Graham are calling on Camden MP Peter Sidgreaves, East Hills MP Wendy Lindsay and Oatley MP Mark Coure to explain why they voted against the proposed legislation designed to give commuters much-needed relief in a recession.

This follows the release of recent data showing that some south western Sydney households were paying more than $5000 a year in tolls.

Ms McKay said Sydney's growing toll network was "the most expensive and extensive in the world".

"Tolls are a heavy burden for both commuters and the transport industry during a recession," she said.

"Workers, families and businesses are all struggling.

"They shouldn't have to shoulder the burden of this government's budget mismanagement."

The proposed Bill would have required the transport minister to declare a toll-free period when a new motorway opens.

Its defeat in the Legislative Assembly comes ahead of the opening of the NorthConnex project, which will further increase Sydney's spending on motorways.

The new nine kilometre tunnel from Wahroonga to West Pennant Hills is expected to open as soon as this weekend and will cost cars $7.99 and trucks $23.97 each way.

Northconnex is also the first toll road in NSW where truck drivers will be forced to pay a toll or pay a fine, with no free alternative route

Mr Sidgreaves said he acknowledged the concerns of many Camden residents regarding the growing cost of tolls.

"After receiving correspondence from Camden residents expressing their concerns at the cost of the M5 East Toll, I wrote to the minister for roads and transport on July 20, 2020.

"In my letter to the minister, I included a proposal that would ease the financial burden to vehicles driving from the south-west of the M5 tollbooth at Hammondville.

"This would be ongoing and not just a 'toll-free period'."

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

Mr Sidgreaves said he wrote to the minister a second time after receiving further correspondence from Camden residents once they received their first toll statement after the introduction of the M5 East Toll.

"I wrote to the [minister] a second time providing him with real examples of the cost burden for Camden residents who use the M5 East," he said.

"In my most recent letter to the minister, I have again included my proposal to ease the costs burden on an ongoing basis.

"I will continue to advocate for our community on this matter."

Mr Sidgreaves said he would not disclose the details of his idea at this time out of respect to the minister and his consideration of the proposal.

"I voted against the (toll free period) Bill because I am trying to work with the minister to provide relief on an ongoing basis," he said.

Mr Graham said Terrigal MP Adam Crouch must also come clean about why he wants to slug commuters in a recession.

"It's not too late for the Government to implement a toll-free period on NorthConnex," he said.

"It will not only give much-needed relief in a recession but also help drivers adapt to the new route and reduce the risk of dangerous, last-minute lane changes."