More than 10,000 people sign petition against new M5 toll

NSW Labor is fighting for changes to the law by mandating toll-free periods on all new, major NSW toll roads. Picture: Simon Bennett
NSW Labor is fighting for changes to the law by mandating toll-free periods on all new, major NSW toll roads. Picture: Simon Bennett

NSW Labor lodged a petition in NSW Parliament yesterday calling on the government to scrap the new toll on the M5 East.

More than 10,000 people signed the petition, forcing a debate on the issue in Parliament.

The toll on from King Georges Road to General Holmes Drive coincided with opening of the new M8 motorway with the eight kilometre twin tunnels running from from Kingsgrove to St Peters.

The distance-based toll is $6.95 for cars and $20.86 for trucks.

The toll will cost drivers more than $3,300 a year and is expected to increase by at least 4 per cent every year for the next 40 years.

Macquarie Fields MP (Labor) Anoulack Chanthivong said the government had betrayed motorists in south-west Sydney by giving Transurban the rights to toll the M5 East as part of the sale of WestConnex,

He said it was unfair to make motorists pay to use an old road.

"We are in the middle of an economic recession and the Liberal Party's heartless response is to collect more tolls," he said.

"This is a blatant cash grab on motorists who are struggling financially during the pandemic."

Werriwa MP Anne Stanley (Labor) said the toll should be scrapped.

"I am overwhelmed by the number of stories I've heard about the difficulties this new unfair toll is causing families and workers," she said.

"Paying for a road that already exists to prop up the liberal budget mistakes is another blow to south west Sydney residents."

Camden MP Peter Sidgreaves (Liberal) told the Advertiser in July that the Premier had made it clear that "there will be no grace period due to toll relief options like free registration or half-price registration from Service NSW".

He said the M5 East's capacity had doubled in recent years.

"I think it shaves at least 30 minutes off the trip, so that saves people an hour on a round trip," Mr Sidgreaves said.

"If I could save that hour and spend it with my family I would expect, and be happy, to pay for it."

Kogarah Labor MP Chris Minns the impact of this "reckless decision on local roads has been devastating".

"Toll roads and tunnels were once designed to reduce surface traffic - this has done the exact opposite," he said.

"Local tradies and families feel betrayed by a Liberal Government that promised it would reduce the cost of living, not radically increase it."

The opposition spokesman for roads John Graham said the toll would hit families hard.

"Sydney has become one of the highest tolled cities on earth," he said.

"This toll will hurt families that are doing it tough and make it harder for truckies and tradies to do business."

When the M8 opened in July, a Transport for NSW spokesman said the M8 tunnels would double the capacity on one of Sydney's most congested routes.

"This change was first announced in 2015 as part of the planning and community engagement for this vital $4.3 billion project. The M5 East was not built to handle the number of cars and trucks that rely on it daily," the spokesman said.

"The M5 East carries about 100,000 vehicles a day, and the toll reflects the significant travel time improvements many of these motorists will experience as a direct result of the M8.

"For example, motorists will save up to 30 minutes between Liverpool and south Sydney, with average travel times halved and peak hour speeds doubled.

"To prepare for the M8 a number of surface and in-tunnel works have been completed, including major surface works at Kingsgrove and resurfacing of the M5 East tunnels."

The spokesman said toll prices were set in long-term, legally binding contracts between the NSW government and motorway companies.