Thursday, 20 October 2011

Australian news: Calls for new tolls in Sydney and truck tolls nationwide

Calls to reintroduce toll on Sydney motorway to reduce congestion

The St George & Sutherland Shire Leader reports that the Australian Productivity Commission’s draft report on the regulation of Australian airports has criticised access to Sydney airport by land. It has proposed reintroducing tolls on the M5 East motorway (which were withdrawn in 1997), to manage congestion, delay the need for new road capacity and incentivise changes in modes and travel times.

It is broadly supportive of reducing congestion more widely in Sydney using targeted tolling and says:

"Tolls would increase incentives for drivers to change modes of travel and, in the long run, may affect work and residential locational choices in a way that lessens congestion in the tolled areas."

That would be logical, but politically highly contentious. The simple question motorists would ask is "what happens to the money"?  It is right to improve pricing on a congestion road, but one of the biggest issues for any introduction of tolls on an untolled road is that point.  Of course, meanwhile the government is paying the private concessionaire that owns the road an estimated A$13 million (US$13.2 million) this year in compensation because of the volume of traffic using the road, which effectively substitutes for the toll revenue that used to be collected - an election bribe at the time that must be some nuisance to the current government.

Council of Australian Governments supports weight/distance charges for trucks

The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) has been embarking on a study on road reform for Australia in recent years that is now culminating in final proposals. COAG represents the states and local government. Its preliminary findings reject fuel taxation as a sustainable option.

According to Fully Loaded:  Unlike a monitoring system using GPS, the CRRP says fuel charging will not provide information on road use and where funds should be directed.

It says monitoring the actual distance of a truck rather than using fuel as a proxy will provide direct information on vehicle road use, which in turn can be used for infrastructure planning and investment.

Furthermore, the CRRP adds that monitoring a truck’s distance will provide a direct signal to operators about the cost of using a road.

“In short, measuring actual distance more directly resembles a user charge as compared to paying via fuel costs and so is more likely to provide an effective and transparent signal about road use costs. It is more akin to a service charge used to price other utilities,” it says in its findings.

The COAG road reform plan has a dedicated website where you can read its discussion papers. It serves as a counter to the Australian Trucking Association (ATA) which vehemently opposes any form of distance based charging.

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