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Decision deadline for WestConnex extended by ACCC

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has delayed its decision as it reviews the proposed acquisition by Transurban consortium Sydney Transport Partners of a majority interest in the WestConnex project.

The date for the review originally scheduled for 19 July 2018 has been delayed to 6 September 2018.

The change of date, reportedly, will provide the ACCC with extra time in which to consider the competition issues relating to the proposed acquisition.

The Australian Trucking Association (ATA), on behalf of its members, has opposed the sale. It cited Transurban’s model as a toll road operator which it fears will increase costs for trucking operators in New South Wales, 98 per cent of which were considered small businesses.

The partially completed WestConnex development spans across 33 kilometres of interconnected motorways and road upgrades. It will extend the M4 motorway from Parramatta to Sydney Airport and duplicate the M5 East corridor.

Rod Sims, ACCC Chair said WestConnex was an unusually large project that involved a range of complex competition issues.

“Since our statement of issues, we have been conducting a thorough analysis of the likely impact on competition from the proposed acquisition. We set ourselves a very tight nine-week review period after the statement of issues, to meet the state’s sale process timeline. However this has not been possible despite our best efforts,” he said.

“We recognise that the decision to extend the timeline for our decision may have flow-on impacts for the WestConnex sale process, so we do not do this lightly. However the reality is that this is a major transaction in the context of NSW toll roads, arguably the most significant in Australia in the foreseeable future.”

“We continue to have competition concerns, with many complex elements requiring analysis, and we need to get to the bottom of them before we make a decision.”

The ACCC on 17 May published a statement of issues that identified preliminary competition concerns for future toll road concessions and road-on-road competition between Transurban’s existing toll roads and WestConnex in future.

“The ATA is pleased that the ACCC has extended the decision date for this review to September, given the complexity of the competition issues involved,” the trucking industry peak body noted in an issued statement.

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