| 17.12,11. 03:34 AM |
Flawed Bridge, Tunnel tolls to remain
December 17, 2011
VARIABLE tolls on the Harbour Bridge and Tunnel are here to stay - despite the NSW government admitting they have failed to improve traffic and only add a paltry $5 million to state coffers.
Variable tariffs - such as the increase from $3 to $4 between 6.30am and 9.30am - were introduced by the then-NSW premier Nathan Rees in January 2009 to encourage more drivers to travel outside peak periods.
But in a blow to the more than 30,000 city-bound drivers who use the Harbour Bridge and Tunnel every weekday morning, the O'Farrell government is refusing to abolish them.
In July new Roads Minister Duncan Gay described them as "unfair" and ordered a review.
But he also said he would not abolish them if it resulted in a loss of revenue for the state government, because of the $5.2 billion budget "black hole" it had inherited from Labor.
Yesterday he conceded the tolls would stay because they generated more than $5 million in revenue per year, taking last year's toll total to $124 million.
The average collected from all drivers crossing the Harbour is $3.20, compared to the flat $3.
As part of the review, the RMS (previously known as the RTA) had conducted modelling on the impact of returning the $3 rate.
"The net present value of lost revenue to the government from removing time-of-day tolling and reverting to a $3 toll is estimated to be $28.4 million over the next five years," Mr Gay said.
"Also, if time-of-day tolling were to be removed, other costs would be incurred relating to tolling system changes, signage and customer communications.
"Due to the costs involved I have no plans to remove time-of-day tolling from the Sydney Harbour Bridge or Tunnel."
Despite his refusal to scrap the tolls, Mr Gay provided new data showing the time-of-day tolling hasn't worked to improve traffic flow - and again blamed the former government.
The number of peak-hour Harbour crossings fell just 0.19 per cent between 2008 and 2010 to about 31,000 cars each morning.
This compared with a 5.4 per cent fall between 2005 and 2008.
The data showed the AM peak traffic decreased faster before the time-of-day tolling was introduced, according to Mr Gay.
"The previous government cut annual funding to the RTA in its 2008 mini-budget by $12 million per year, in anticipation of greater toll revenue from time-of day-tolling," Mr Gay said.
"This shows time-of-day tolling was introduced by Labor as a revenue-raising mechanism and had nothing to do with traffic management."
Other traffic figures show the shoulder period between 9.30am and 4pm had remained largely unchanged since the introduction of time-of-day tolling and the off peak hours between 7pm and 6.30am had risen just 1 per cent.
This again showed that traffic was largely static since the introduction, despite a higher toll in peak periods trying to drive traffic into shoulder and off-peak periods, the government said.