WestConnex tunnel traffic set to be higher than expected, data shows

| 28.02,19. 07:57 AM |

WestConnex tunnel traffic set to be higher than expected, data shows

The M4 East tunnel is due to open to motorists within the next four months.Credit:Steven Siewert

More Sydney motorists are likely to use the first tunnel to be opened as part of WestConnex than government modelling originally forecast, new data suggests.

Consisting mostly of tunnels, the M4 East from Homebush to Haberfield is due to open to motorists by June. Motorists have been paying tolls since August 2017 on a widened section of the M4 between Parramatta and Homebush, which forms part of the first stage.

Analysis by Macquarie Group of new data on vehicles using Sydney's toll roads shows traffic exiting and entering the widened M4 in November averaged almost 67,000 vehicles a day.

Given the government's baseline forecast for traffic on the new M4 East, which will link to the widened section of motorway, is about 68,000 vehicles a day, the Macquarie analysts said the data suggested that the state's expectations would be surpassed.

"Whilst not all M4 traffic will use the tunnel, the tunnel will draw traffic from Concord Road and Parramatta Road," they said.

They also expect the opening of the M4 East tunnel within the next four months will boost traffic on the widened M4 between Homebush and Parramatta.

Motorists will pay tolls of up to $4.27 for a one-way trip on the M4 East. At present, they pay up to $4.93 for driving the entire length of the widened M4.

Like the other parts of WestConnex, the distance-based tolls will rise by at least 4 per cent a year, which at present is more than twice the rate of inflation.

While the number of vehicles using the M4 East tunnel is likely to be higher than expected, the data shows growth in traffic on the Lane Cove and Cross City tunnels has been weak.

The new insights into the performance of the M4 and other toll roads is a consequence of Transurban last year agreeing to release detailed data to gain regulatory approval to bid for control of WestConnex. The government later sold a majority stake in Australia's biggest toll road project to a consortium led by Transurban for $9.3 billion.

Labor has vowed to reintroduce a scheme for motorists to get their tolls back from using the widened M4 between Parramatta and Homebush if it wins the state election on March 23.

However, experts say a cash-back scheme will deliver a “free kick” to the new owners of WestConnex because it will entice more motorists to drive on the M4 at a large cost to taxpayers.


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