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Calls to standardise Sydney's 'patchwork' of tolls as new WestConnex tunnel opens

The opening of another section of the WestConnex toll road has prompted experts and a key motoring organisation to call for Sydney's "patchwork" of toll charges to be standardised.

A link between the M4 at Haberfield and M8 at St Peters was opened on Friday morning, bringing the WestConnex project closer to its full completion, expected in 2025.

The M4-M8 link will cost $5.65 for cars to use and $16.95 for heavy vehicles such as trucks. A toll cap on the entire WestConnex network means any user will pay no more than $11.11 for cars and $33.32 for heavy vehicles.

While WestConnex and Westlink M7 use a distance-based tolling scheme, all of Sydney's toll roads have different fixed prices.

The Sydney Harbour Tunnel and Bridge meanwhile have prices that change based on the day of the week and time of the day.

University of Sydney transport expert Martin Locke said inconsistent toll charges need to be brought into line.

"We've got some roads where we charge tolls, some roads that are free, some roads where motorists get a rebate on their tolls through cashback," Mr Locke said.

"I describe it as a patchwork quilt."

Mr Locke, an adjunct professor at the Institute of Transport and Logistics Studies, said there needed to be a fundamental reform of the entire roads system.

"It'd be more appropriate just to have the same tolling structure being applied across the portfolio."

Peter Khoury, from motoring organisation NRMA, also wants to see a fairer tolling structure for motorists.

"The first thing we need to look at is standardising the system so that it's equitable," Mr Khoury told ABC Radio Sydney.

"So it doesn't matter where in Sydney you live, if you drive on a motorway you pay 'x' amount per kilometre. And that is it."

One of the most tolled cities

The network is described by some transport experts as one of the most extensive and expensive urban toll road networks in the world.

Tolls are collected when motorists drive on the:

  • Hills M2
  • WestConnex M4
  • WestConnex M4-M8 Link
  • WestConnex M5 East
  • M5 South-West Motorway
  • Westlink M7
  • WestConnex M8
  • NorthConnex
  • Lane Cove Tunnel
  • Sydney Harbour Bridge
  • Sydney Harbour Tunnel
  • Cross City Tunnel
  • Eastern Distributor

Toll amounts depend on which road is used, how far you travel and what vehicle you drive.

Some tolls charge a flat fee, for example standard cars pay $9.06 while trucks pay $27.17 on NorthConnex.

Other tolls including Westlink M7 and all WestConnex roadways charge by the kilometre until they hit maximum charges.

Mr Khoury said transport in Sydney could make up to 20 per cent of the family budget, when including fuel costs.

79-year-old single pensioner Gara Baldwin said she had to give up volunteering after a bus route was cancelled, forcing her to drive on a toll road that would cost $16 a day, and pay $15 for parking.

"On my pension and meagre superannuation it's not financially viable," Ms Baldwin said.

Landscaping business owner Tim Hayward said he considered moving his business from Thornleigh to Mount Ku-ring-gai to save money on a lease, but the cost of NorthConnex tolls meant any saving would be negated.

"The tolls rendered this useless as it would have added $35,000 to my annual bills due to one additional toll," Mr Hayward said.

Toll relief available

Metropolitan Roads Minister Natalie Ward said the tunnel projects gave people choices to use the free roads above or pay to use the toll roads.

"The idea is to get that traffic off local roads and return those areas to local communities and get that traffic underground," Ms Ward said.

"If this hadn't been built, you'd be sitting on Parramatta Road, sitting in those sets of traffic lights and all that congestion."

State government programs mean motorists who spend at least $1,462 on tolls in the previous financial year can receive free car registration for the year.

If they spend just $877, motorists can pay half price on their registration.

A new toll relief rebate scheme will also give motorists a 40 per cent rebate up to $750 a year, if they spent more than $375 a year on tolls. Claims under this scheme are due to open early this year.

A cashback scheme also exists for the M5 for commuters who register with the program.

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