“Pricing will have to be introduced to fund infrastructure” … CEO of Transurban, Scott CharltonNEW types of road tolls that could include paying more for driving at peak hour are inevitable in Sydney, the biggest operator of toll roads in the city says.
”In the not-too-distant future we will see variations of network pricing in Australia in order to better utilise our transport infrastructure,” the chief executive of Transurban, Scott Charlton, told an industry conference in Melbourne yesterday.
”Whether it’s corridor charges, congestion charges, demand pricing or distance-based tolling – network pricing will have to be introduced to fund infrastructure, manage demand and promote public transport alternatives,” said Mr Charlton, whose company operates the M2, M5, the Eastern Distributor, the M7 and the Lane Cove Tunnel.
”Just take a look at our major motorways and it’s obvious: we need new capacity – and we have to find better ways to utilise our existing assets,” he said.
Mr Charlton’s comments come amid heightened interest in new versions of road tolls following the NSW government’s release of the state’s draft transport master plan this week.
The Roads Minister, Duncan Gay, said the government was examining distance-based tolling, where motorists using motorways were charged per kilometre.
The master plan endorses distance-based charging as ”a way of raising revenue for new infrastructure and/or lessening congestion” and says the government will ”investigate, develop and test a distance-based tolling regime for Sydney’s motorways” in consultation with private sector tollway operators.
In announcing the master plan, the Premier, Barry O’Farrell, said tolling based on distance ”is something that we’d like to achieve, particularly if we can achieve it on a cost-neutral basis”.
But Mr Charlton went further and proposed charging more at peaks to free space on existing roads. ”If you look at just one of our Sydney motorways – the Eastern Distributor – you can see the peaks in the am and pm periods,” he said.
”You can also clearly see the motorway has excess capacity during other parts of the day. The question is – could peak pricing change this profile? Or could discounts during the off-periods produce a better transport outcome?
”One key fact in the road pricing debate is that a significant number of motorists do have an option of when they travel. Some studies suggest as much as 40 per cent of travel in the afternoon peak is discretionary.
”We are asking people to consider their travel more deliberately, and question the time of day they really need to travel or by what mode. Pricing restrictions on travel will be a bitter pill to swallow for a country that prides itself on high standards of living.
”Avoiding difficult initiatives will result in uneconomical decisions on infrastructure delivery and the further build out of existing roadways that are only fully utilised for a small number of hours a day.”
The chief executive of Infrastructure Partnerships Australia, Brendan Lyon, praised Mr Charlton’s speech.
”Our historic approach has been to add new roads to address congestion, but there are natural limits to a supply-only approach,” Mr Lyon said.
”Australia cannot endlessly build its way out of trouble, and that means we need to begin a national dialogue about how pricing can better manage congestion and help to fund the huge backlog of public transport and road infrastructure.”
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.