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Tolls amendment to West Gate Tunnel bill

Mar 20, 2019 | Parliament

Mr  BARTON  (Eastern Metropolitan) (22:59:54): I just want to say something before we start so there is no confusion. Transport Matters supports this project. We like the project. It is a good project. It gets trucks off the roads and it makes them safer. But like many other people, we have an absolute issue with making people pay tolls on the Tullamarine Freeway, the Monash Freeway and through the Burnley Tunnel. We think that is just simply wrong, and there are other ways we could have done it. We certainly take the view that governments should be doing these projects. Clearly it is too late now for this, but none of the amendments we are suggesting tonight has any impact; this project is going to happen. I just want to put some amendments through.

Transport Matters Party amendments circulated by Mr  BARTON  pursuant to standing orders.

Mr  BARTON : I propose these amendments today because I wish to bring a new level of fairness to the tolling system that will be adopted when our West Gate Tunnel opens. I want us to consider what tolls on our roads are for.

The disappointing passing of a motion last month in this place that extended tolling on CityLink raises the question of whether tolls are becoming a way of life for Victorians.

Are they there to pay for the costs of building and maintaining our roads, or are they a honey pot for multinationals dipping constantly into the pockets of Victorian road users?

I would hope that the amendments I have proposed today will spread, in due course, to road users on all other toll roads in Victoria in a show of faith and fairness from our toll road operators.

The vehicles that make up our public transport system should not be tolled.

We must exclude taxis, VH-registered hire cars and buses from tolls in the West Gate Tunnel.

We absolutely support public transport. We should lower the cost of public transport; that is our view.

We want to reduce congestion and get cars off residential streets. This amendment aims to encourage people to use toll roads more.

There are thousands of vehicles every day avoiding the tollways now. Commercial operators do this all the time. I can certainly say of someone we are familiar with who runs 10 little trucks that his toll bill is $7000 a month. That is staggering. That is a huge impost on his business.

In terms of taxis, at the moment taxi drivers may recoup the costs of tolls from passengers by adding tolls to their bill. However, these costs can only be charged when a passenger is in the car, of course, and if drivers are required to return to the city without a passenger, they bear the toll costs themselves.

Customers will get a cheaper ride.

It will encourage drivers not to use the rat runs to get back to the city by avoiding tolls.

We can also get tour buses off the back streets and onto the tollways as well. Currently, bus services are charged heavy commercial vehicle rates to use our toll roads. Whether privately chartered or part of the public transport routes, buses provide a great service in transporting large groups of people, getting them out of their cars, reducing congestion and providing efficiency on our roads.

They should not be tolled; they should be encouraged.

I also want to remove the mention of trailers from this legislation. We want to reduce congestion and get people off residential streets.

This amendment aims to encourage people to use toll roads more. Adding this to the legislation opens the possibility that one day road users will pay extra for the trailer towed behind their vehicles, as happens in Queensland.

We note that this ability for tolls on trailers is intended to apply to EastLink and CityLink. At the moment each tolling gantry has a number of pieces of equipment to detect and identify vehicles. A vehicle detector locates and measures the vehicle dimensions; a tag detector communicates with e‑tags, if one is installed; a camera takes a photograph of the front licence plate; and another camera takes a photograph of the rear licence plate.

I worry that this clause may open the door for a day in the near future when we will see families towing trailers or caravans or boats charged twice—once for their vehicle and once for the vehicle they are towing.

Hundreds of trailers are rented in Victoria each weekend by families. By allowing toll operators to charge based on a trailer’s registration, we will add an onerous administrative function to service stations and hire companies. T

hey will face a few options: taking on the role of collection agency for toll operators, chasing down their customers for toll charges after the hire; charging more for trailer rentals to cover the potential cost of tolls; bearing the brunt of tolls themselves; or simply removing trailer hire from their services.

Finally, my amendments aim to make travelling on toll roads fairer for families. We want to reduce congestion and get people off the residential streets. This amendment aims to encourage people to use toll roads more.

These amendments will limit the light commercial vehicle classification to cab chassis vehicles—commonly called utes and crew cabs—registered as commercial vehicles only.

Privately registered utes will pay car rates.

The vehicles on our roads have changed considerably in the last 20 years. In the 1990s, when vehicle classes for tolling were determined, cab chassis vehicles were placed in the light commercial vehicle class, paying almost twice as much as a car. Over time cab chassis have become the vehicle of choice for many families, adventure seekers and animal lovers, as well as our hardworking and struggling farmers and tradies.

All our cars are heavier and bigger. A minibus carrying up to 12 passengers passes down our toll roads on the car rate. The enormous $250 000 Range Rover pays the car rate too. Yet single, dual and king cab chassis—which make up seven of the top 10 sellers in the private sector—are charged at light commercial vehicle rates.

On long weekends our roads are filled with dual-cabin utes towing caravans, all paying commercial rates. Is it fair we charge them the commercial rates?

I urge members to bring fairness to tolling on the new West Gate Tunnel. I sincerely hope our tolling operators take these amendments in good faith, act as a good corporate citizen and extend them across the entire toll network in Victoria.

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