The journey towards a fairer road toll system

We have a chance to change the system for the better by fixing the whole tolling system, not just one part of it. The ultimate answer is a network where the price reflects the cost of the journey, not the cost of the individual road.

In practice, that means a distance-based model applied to the whole tolled motorway network, with differential per kilometre charges for eastern, central, and western zones. In total, tolls should be no higher, but the current inequitable kinks and chasms would be ironed out.

As part of the journey towards fairer tolls, we must tackle the issue of a network that is heavily trafficked for two hours a day and relatively empty for the other 22 hours. We should use discounts to encourage off-peak travel – and not just for passenger vehicles on the harbour crossings. If we can use discounts to encourage a truck to travel the M7 at 2am rather than 5pm, everyone wins.


Of course, the interests of motorists would need to be prioritised, while the legitimate commercial interests of the existing toll road owners and operators would need to be protected. And we’d need safeguards during the transition to make sure toll road customers are protected from unreasonable increases.

While the reform journey may be daunting, we can deliver a system that better serves everyone who uses our motorway network.

So, what we really need to answer is: Are we prepared to ask ourselves the right questions on tolling?

Adrian Dwyer is the chief executive of the independent think tank and member group Infrastructure Partnerships Australia.

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