Toll road: Who will pay?
By RENEE REDMOND and AAP
CARS shouldn't get a free ride if the Pacific Highway became a toll road, local trucking boss Jim Hurley said yesterday.
The general manager of Kyogle's giant Brown and Hurley company was responding to suggestions that only truckies should pay a toll if highway roadworks were speeded up through private investment.
However, Ballina MP Don Page said a heavy vehicle toll may force trucks back on to the New England Highway where they belonged. The NSW Shadow Minister for Roads said local motorists should be exempt from the toll. The comments follow an announcement by the Federal Government backing a possible tollway which, they claim, would see the dual carriageway completed within five years.
The NSW Government has estimated without the tollway the project would take until 2025 to complete.
The Brown and Hurley general manager said trucking companies already pay up to $18,000 just to register a new B-double in NSW.
"Trucks transport everything from the cornflakes you eat at breakfast to the shoes you wear to work, so it's not fair to put the cost on trucks only," Mr Hurley said.
"You never hear anyone mention how many extra cars are using the road, it's always the trucks that are blamed.
"Why should cars get a free ride while we pick up the bill?"
Last night, Deputy Prime Minister John Anderson said he had held talks with the NSW Government about ways to speed up upgrades to the Pacific Highway.
The Federal Government also announced yesterday it would dip into its Budget surplus to help fund a major upgrade of the Pacific Highway, linking Sydney and Brisbane.
It also said it would consider introducing a modest toll to hasten the $5 billion upgrades.
Don Page said the NSW Government needed to increase its funding by $100 million annually to match the Federal Government's promise to dip into its Budget surplus to help fund the upgrade.
Federal MP for Richmond, Justine Elliot, said the upgrade should be delivered without putting a toll on local roads.
"Money from petrol excise should be spent on maintaining and improving local roads," Ms Elliot said.
"The Howard Government will collect more than $7 billion in petrol excise and almost $2 billion in petrol GST this year.
"Last year, more than 20 per cent of all fatal crashes on the highway happened in the Ballina, Byron and Tweed areas."
Former NSW coroner Kevin Waller said the State and Federal governments should be footing the bill to extend the Pacific Highway dual carriageway.