You can’t half blame drivers for jumping to conclusions.
When a series of new pylons went up along the M4 between Penrith and Eastern Creek early last month, people just naturally assumed they were getting another toll.
Our 7News Sydney Facebook page came alive with conspiracy theories about what was going on and why all the secrecy.
“Dear Gladys,” said viewer Daniel Lin, “you wouldn’t have got my vote if I’d known you’d be whacking us again on the M4 just before the M7.”
“The west has had enough,” he said.
He’s half right.
Greater Western Sydney really has had enough but there is no new toll coming – in that place at least.
The Government assures us that the M4 will remain toll-free, west of Church Street at Parramatta.
The new posts will become gantries for overhead speed signs.
Sadly tolls have become just a way of life.
Remember when it used to be possible to travel around our city without regularly hearing the beep?
A recent university study awarded Sydney the dubious honour of having the most extensive and expensive toll road system in the world.
The Institute of Transport Logistics told 7News, “governments seem to have forgotten it’s possible to build roads without tolls. In terms of the kilometres of user pay roads, Sydney has the most in the world.”
A typical western Sydney household spends at least $2000 every year paying to get around.
Remember that’s after-tax dollars – so you almost have to earn about twice that to pay for the privilege.
In my household, last year we paid $4300 and I doubt that’s exceptional.
The city has nine toll roads and more coming.
When all the motorways under construction are built, there will be another six.
That’s 15 different places to pay tolls in Sydney – most of them across the west.
The State runs a so-called ‘toll relief rebate scheme’ which can lead to part of your rego being free.
That’ll save you between $300 and $466 each year, but to be eligible you need to spend almost five times that paying to use toll-roads.
And never forget that nearly 40 per cent of the price of every litre of petrol or diesel you buy goes in tax – meant to be destined to maintain the roads.
In truth only a portion ever does.
Governments have become lazy and they prey on the fact that Sydney drivers are now apathetic towards paying tolls.
It’s all a question of priorities.
Jason Morrison is the News Director at 7News Sydney.