Independent Toll Review interim report released

The NSW Independent Toll Review interim report has been handed down by Professor Allan Fels, making a range of recommendations to the NSW Government.

Professor Fels and Dr David Cousins were asked to independently assess the efficiency, fairness, simplicity and transparency of tolls, identifying a range of areas for improvement, while acknowledging the significance of tolls.

The reviewers found the tolling network, comprised of 13 roads in Sydney, have an impact on the way in which people live and the places they reside, with inconsistencies between individual roads leading to a patchwork system and the greatest toll burden in Western Sydney.

An important theme of the report is the need to have a coordinated network pricing system based on simpler principles than at present. The reviewers are of the belief this will enhance the efficiency and fairness of tolls and help motorists to have a better understanding of the cost of their trips.

Some of the key recommendations made by Professor Fels and Dr Cousins include:

• A unified, network-wide price structure that is charged on a declining distance-based method to assist people who must travel further – specifically the millions of motorists in western Sydney who currently carry the largest burden and have the fewest public transport alternatives.
• Creating a state-owned special purpose entity to set toll prices and improve competition.
• Legislative changes to allow toll prices to be set independently of individual contracts.
• Engaging the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) in oversight of toll price setting.

NSW Minister for Roads, John Graham, welcomed the interim report, while acknowledging the complexity of reform.

“This interim report recognises just how difficult toll reform will be, it also recognises how necessary it is,” Minister Graham said.

“Allan Fels and David Cousins have placed in front of the NSW Government some serious options on toll reform. We will take our time to consider these options and come back with a detailed government response.

“This government is willing to have the hard conversations and take on the status quo to deliver a fairer, simpler system that puts the motorist back at the centre rather than financial interests of toll road investors.”

While government considers these reforms the public will be invited to have input into the final report of the Toll Review, with further public, industry and stakeholder engagement planned.

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