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NRMA demands transparency over plans for M5 toll extension

Date

Jacob Saulwick

The state’s motoring lobby is calling on the government to come clean over whether it plans to sell the toll rights for roads through western Sydney to pay for new motorways.

Roads Minister Duncan Gay admitted last week the government would consider selling the right to levy tolls on the M5 motorway beyond 2026, when the road is due to revert to government ownership.

The admission, which came after previous government denials that it was considering the plan, has angered the NRMA, which said such decisions should not be made behind closed doors.

When Fairfax Media revealed in April that the business case for the WestConnex motorway included raising $1.7 billion from selling toll rights for the M5 until 2060, the state government said it had no plans to do so.

But asked if the government would sell toll rights for the M5 last week, Mr Gay said: "As we look at financing options in the future, that has to be one of the options that could be considered."

NRMA president Kyle Loades said if the government extended the toll period on the M5 to pay for the WestConnex motorway, it would be a breach of faith for south-west Sydney residents who might not even use the new motorway.

"What we don’t want to see is major funding decisions which directly affect the affordability of motoring in this state being made behind closed doors, without any form of community consultation," Mr Loades said.

"Motorways are monopoly assets, if these assets are to be handed over to the private sector – effectively in perpetuity – then it’s the responsibility of government to ensure the process is completely transparent and regulatory safeguards are in place so that the public gets value for money," he said.

The NRMA said the proposal contradicted the "user pays" philosophy. The government is planning a similar arrangement by extending the toll life on the M7 motorway across western Sydney by another 11 years to help pay for the NorthConnex motorway under Pennant Hills Road.

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