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Sydney to pay $195 billion in tolls by 2060 | Image: Dylan Chung

Toll Tales: Sydney Drivers to Face $195 Billion in Tolls, Report States


Sydney’s streets may offer roads to discovery, but for motorists, the tolls tell a different, more expensive story. A long-awaited review of the city’s motorway network has revealed that drivers will face a staggering $195 billion bill over the next 37 years. This hefty sum has left many questioning the tolling system’s fairness and previous governments’ priorities.

Sydney to pay $195 billion in tolls by 2060 | Image: Nick Jones
Sydney to pay $195 billion in tolls by 2060 | Image: Nick Jones

Former competition chief Allan Fels has shed light on the terrible tolling landscape and its impact on Sydney’s roads. The interim review paints a bleak picture of motorists bearing the brunt of toll costs while private investors reap generous returns.

“Tolls need a big shake-up, no holds barred, and the NSW government needs to take back control of tolls,” Professor Fels told the AFR. “Transurban has a monopoly, and there’s been insufficient focus on competition in toll setting.”

From the Sydney Harbour Tunnel to the M2 motorway, agreements have often favoured the private sector, with guarantees ensuring financial protection for operators, even if traffic falls short of expectations. Such arrangements have led to toll operators receiving billions of dollars, placing a significant financial burden on drivers.

Sydney to pay $195 billion in tolls by 2060 | Image: Benjamin Sow
Sydney to pay $195 billion in tolls by 2060 | Image: Benjamin Sow

While NSW State Premier Chris Minns and Roads Minister John Graham were cautious about drawing conclusions before reading the review in its entirety, the pair didn’t hold back criticism of the existing toll contracts, which they argued prioritised company profits at the expense of taxpayers.

“The toll contracts were designed with guaranteed financial returns to their owners and operators as top of mind,” said Mr Graham via the SMH. “Drivers came last in that equation.”

“This isn’t fair,” said Premier Minns. “It’s putting a huge burden on Sydneysiders trying to get to work, drop their kids at school and go about their lives.”

Due to a lack of transparency and a focus on financial returns over traffic management, the tolling system has come under scrutiny, with many calling for a fairer approach to toll setting. According to Fels’ review, most motorists believe tolls are too high and unfair, highlighting the need for reform.

Sydney to pay $195 billion in tolls by 2060 | Image: Thaddaeus Lim
Sydney to pay $195 billion in tolls by 2060 | Image: Thaddaeus Lim

Premier Minns has acknowledged the tolling system’s impact on Sydney residents, particularly those in western Sydney with fewer public transport alternatives. With households spending thousands of dollars annually on tolls, there’s a growing call for change.

Roads Minister John Graham has echoed these sentiments, emphasising the need for a better deal for drivers. As the debate over tolling continues, one thing is clear: Sydney motorists are looking for relief from the toll road burden and hope for a fairer and more transparent system in the years to come.