Sydney-based transport operator Rob Woolley estimated he’d be out of pocket by as much as $50,000 a year after running just two bulk tankers from the Central Coast into metropolitan Sydney each night.
Woolley said he welcomed the concept behind the 9.0km NorthConnex tunnel as the missing link between the M1 Pacific Motorway at Wahroonga and the Hills M2 Motorway at West Pennant Hills, improving travel times for truckies and easing congestion along Pennant Hills Road.
However, he said there needs to be more flexibility from Transurban and Transport for NSW for short-haul operators using the tunnel on a regular basis.
“It costs nearly $24 each way to use the tunnel and while it’s easy for people to say it should be passed on to the customer, that won’t be possible in a lot of cases,” said Woolley.
“Even pre-COVID, and pre-recession, it was economically difficult so we’re calling for some relief and some flexibility.
“Hopefully we can get some changes or amendments to the regulations such as a cap on the tolls or multi-trip concessions, and perhaps a curfew to make it optional for after-hours use.
“To have a situation where we’re forced to use the tunnel and have the Pennant Hills Road option completely taken away from us – even in the middle of the night – is unfair and un-Australian.”
Woolley said the State Government also seemed to have disregarded the impacts the compulsory tunnel use will have on fatigue management and driver safety.
“It’s a wonderful thing to be able to go from Newcastle to Melbourne without any traffic lights, but what the Transport Minister has neglected to also tell us is that we must now go from Wyong to Pheasant’s Nest, which is near Mittagong, without having direct access to any food or fuel,” he said. “We expect better and this situation is unacceptable.”
Owner-driver Phil Mineo, one of a small army of operators who helped build the $3 billion NorthConnex tunnel, also called for toll relief.
“I am really frustrated with the State Government and the position they’ve put us in with these toll costs and running costs,” said Mineo.
“We just can’t sustain the costs anymore.
“We’ve lost three owner-drivers in the last four months,” he said. “The way the industry is going all the owner-drivers will be out of action in the next 12 to 18 months.”
According to TWU NSW State Secretary, Richard Olsen, TWU members and operators in the transport industry were tired of the exorbitant costs of toll roads and how this was adversely impacting their businesses.
“Owner-drivers have told the TWU that the NorthConnex means that many will now pay tolls where they never have had to before,” said Olsen.
One heavy vehicle owner-driver who parks his truck just north of the NorthConnex told the TWU: “Before it opened I didn’t have to pay any tolls to get to work. Now I am forced to pay $250 per week out of my pocket just to get to and from work. After the costs of doing business, I used to earn about $1,000 per week; now due to NorthConnex I only earn $750 per week – that’s a 25 per cent pay cut.”