The Susa-Babylon Highway in the Middle East in the 7th century BC is believed to have been the world’s first toll road.
In Sydney we have been paying tolls since the early 1800’s when a toll was put on the South Creek at Windsor.
Then in 1811, the first major toll road opened with toll collections points near Central Station and at Parramatta.
When Pyrmont Bridge opened in March 1858 pedestrians paid a penny to make the crossing.
In 1932 when the Sydney Harbour Bridge opened, people were less than impressed they had to pay to cross the brand new structure of which they were very proud.
Fast forward 85 years and while the pride in the bridge remains as strong, the attitude to paying tolls has evolved.
Tolls are a part of modern day life, just as they were in ancient times.
Tolled motorways help build and maintain roads. The Harbour Bridge toll was used to pay it off and is now used to cover maintenance costs and to pay off the Sydney Harbour Tunnel.
Private tollways are a more recent addition to our road network, but play an important part too.
Private funding has provided the community with high quality roads much sooner than would have been possible with public funds alone.
For governments with finite resources and the demand to balance the competing monetary needs for equally worthy projects, the utilisation of private funding frees up government money to invest in other desperately needed projects.
If governments did not work with the private sector, many important public infrastructure projects would be delayed years or in some cases never built.
There is a social dividend to government partnering with the private sector – it allows a government to deliver other vitally important infrastructure sooner, such as the new Northern Beaches hospital we are building, the new Arthur Phillip High School in Parramatta or the new police station at Mount Druitt.
It also helps pay for the doctors, nurses, teachers and police who work in those institutions healing our sick, educating our children and keeping us safe.
Tolled roads provide a faster and safer journey. In fact without tolls WestConnex, NorthConnex and other major road projects wouldn’t have been delivered.
Not only is there a social dividend, but there is an economic benefit too.
Toll roads help ease traffic congestion by providing an alternative route; reducing the cost to the economy in lost productivity caused by clogged roads.
The easier and faster it is to get around, the greater the productivity. It means tradies in Western Sydney can drive to the Northern Beaches quicker to get work and vice versa.
Now not everyone wants to pay a toll; for those motorists there are always alternative toll-free routes available. And those free routes are less congested because other motorists are using the tollways, which gets trucks off local roads.
Motorists will ultimately make a decision on what’s best for them based on whether they believe they are getting value for money.
Recent research by Transport for NSW found that 84 per cent of motorists use motorways to save time. This suggests they believe they are getting value for money and are willing to pay the toll for the benefit it provides in a faster, more efficient and safer journey.
72 per cent of those questioned said they believe Sydney needs more motorways to improve traffic flow and congestion.
This would suggest people accept that motorways and tolls are part of the solution to easing congestion and creating a better and more efficient road network.
People don’t mind paying a toll if they believe the cost is reasonable and they are getting value for money.
But there have been claims that scores of people will be paying $8,000 a year in tolls.
RMS figures show 0.3 per cent or 3 out of every 1,000 motorists who hold an e-tag spend $8,000 a year on tolls. There also are suggestions that motorists who travel from south-western Sydney on the M5 and M7 are paying $6,000 a year in tolls.
This accounts for 0.024 per cent or fewer than 3 out of every 10,000 drivers and fails to take into account the M5 cashback scheme.
The data also reveals that of the motorists who spend more than $140 per week on tolls, 35 per cent have between 1 and 4 tags on their account, 44 per cent have 5-10 tags on their account and 21 per cent have more than 11 tags on their accounts, suggesting these are fleet or commercial business operators, who pass on the cost and get a tax deduction.
The research also revealed that 54 per cent of motorists pay less than $50 a month on tolls, while 24 per cent pay between $51 and $100 a month.
There were also claims that Sydney would have more toll roads than any other city in the world by 2023.
Sydney has nine tolled roads which total 105 kilometres of tolled roads.
New York has 26 toll roads, tunnels and bridges, with tolls ranging from $1 to $22.75. New Jersey has 25 toll roads bridges and tunnels with the cost ranging from $1 to $15.
There are 7 tolls roads in Ireland with the minimum charge $2 and the maximum $14.70 in peak hour.
And by partnering with the private sector to build new roads, we have freed up resources to spend on other projects that make life in Sydney and NSW easier and a little bit better.