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What you need to know about toll roads

congestion tax charging and tolls to reform

It’s costing a lot more to drive around Sydney. There are 12 toll roads and still more approved or under construction. While some people would rather go out of their way to avoid tolls, others will pay just to save time. Meanwhile, some suburbs are more affected than others by toll roads and cashbacks. Sydney has become the capital of toll roads.

2020 – NorthConnex

Last year saw the opening of NorthConnex from Wahroonga to West Pennant Hills. It’s a 9-km tunnel that links the M1 at Wahroonga to the M2 at West Pennant Hills. While cars pay $8.52 if they want to use the road, truck drivers pay $24.59 and are fined if they don’t use the road.

2025 – M12

This “high priority” 16-km motorway links the M7, Western Sydney Airport and Northern Road in Luddenham. The NSW government plans to start construction in 2022 and finish by 2025, a year before the Badgerys Creek airport opens. NSW will spend $350 million while the federal government will spend $1.45 billion.

2025 – M6, Stage 1

Stage 1 of the M6 joins the new M5 at Arncliffe to President Avenue at Kogarah. The 4-km road is already approved, is expected to cost $2.6 billion and will open in late 2025.

2026 – Western Harbour Tunnel

The NSW government has approved the Western Harbour Tunnel and Warringah Freeway Upgrade. It includes a 6.5 km tunnel from an underground interchange at Rozelle to the Warringah Freeway at North Sydney, for around $14 billion. It will open in 2026.

2028 – Beaches link

Beaches Link is a 7-km tunnel from Warringah Freeway at Cammeray to Balgowlah and Seaforth. After a 2-year delay, it should open in 2028.

Do you avoid tolls?

Some people avoid using toll roads by using apps like Google Maps, which show alternative routes.

When the M8 opened in July 2020, westbound traffic on Stoney Creek Road, Bexley was 25% higher than in July 2019. There were 7,500 more vehicles each day at the intersection of Forest and Stoney Creek Roads. Commentators said this was because drivers were avoiding the toll, now $7.23.

Some suburbs pay more than others

Some suburbs are disproportionately hit by tolls. A study of millions of anonymous transactions from May to September 2020 found Camden spends the most each year on tolls ($793). Northern Beaches spends only $354. 

Council/Shire Annual spend
Camden $793
Wollondilly $774
Hills $611
Liverpool $608
Fairfield $574
Northern Beaches $354

Meanwhile, the top 10% of toll paying suburbs spend more than $6,000 a year per driver. These include Woollahra, Burwood, Lane Cove, Hornsby and Liverpool. It appears these drivers are more time sensitive than price sensitive.

The cost of trips (April 2021 prices)

Tolls go up every quarter by an agreed amount. We have been calculating the rising cost of the same five trips in Sydney. All trips, except Liverpool to the City, have inched up slowly. The M5 East, which used to be free, now costs up to $7.23. This adds over $36 to the Liverpool commuter’s weekly bill.

to City Glendenning
to City Penrith to 
Airport via M5 Wahroonga to
Airport Cremorne to Katoomba
Toll there $26.33 $21.56 $20.44 $9.86 $21.63
Toll back $12.11 $17.56 $19.34 $15.82 $21.63
Daily toll $38.44 $39.12 $39.78 $25.68 $43.26

Source: Sydney Motorway Toll Calculator. State the entry and exit points or locate them on a map. Some entry points do not operate as exit points and vice versa.

The good news about tolls

The good news about tolls is for drivers who tow caravans, boats and horse floats. See Everyone wants to go camping. They can now get refunds of the difference between Class B tolls they paid and Class A tolls.

Meanwhile, the registration rebate scheme allows motorists who spend at least $1,352 each year on tolls to get free vehicle registration. If they spend at least $811, they can get half price registration. They still have to buy a green slip. The rebate scheme cost about $70 million last year.

Last, the M5 cashback scheme continues. Residents can claim back tolls paid on the M5 while using a vehicle registered for private, pensioner or charitable use. The cashback scheme cost $120 million last year.

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Corrina Baird

Writer and Researcher, greenslips.com.au

Corrina used to lend her car to her kids and discovered what Ls, Ps and demerits mean for greenslips. After 20 years in financial services and over 8 years with greenslips.com.au, she’s an expert in the NSW CTP scheme. Read more about Corrina

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