The two-year holiday from paying tolls on the M4 for Mountains residents could be over, with the NSW Opposition claiming tollbooths would be in place by the end of the O’Farrell Government’s first term.
In a statement to the Gazette on Monday, Roads Minister Duncan Gay attempted to pour cold water on weekend reports a distance-based tolling system would be introduced on the motorway.
“I have ruled out putting tolls on roads in their current state, including the M4,” Mr Gay said in a statement.
“We would only consider tolls as part of the package of improvements and provisions for new roads.”
He also ruled out congestion-based tolling as an option, the statement said.
But opposition roads spokesman Robert Furolo said the government had not defined the term “improvements” and that Mr Gay’s comments left open the possibility tolling was still on the way.
“Comments from the roads minister that the NSW Government has no plans for tolling on the M4 should not give the people of western Sydney and the Blue Mountains any confidence,” he told the Gazette.
“All that’s required for this government to introduce tolling on the M4 again is to slightly modify the road, as then they have met their obligations.
“I am convinced that before the first term of this government is out that there will be a toll on the M4 roadway.”
Mr Furolo warned distance-based tolling could begin at Emu Plains, with every subsequent off-ramp sporting a tolling booth.
Blue Mountains MP Roza Sage said she agreed with Mr Gay’s comments, “in particular not planning for putting any tolls on roads in their current state”, and that the suggestion tolls would be introduced was a Labor “grubby scare tactic”.
“When improvements and new roads are rolled out it is only sensible that the government looks at all funding options but this will be examined only as a package of improvements and provision for new roads,” she said in a statement.
“As stated, and restated consistently by this government, there are no plans to reintroduce tolls on the M4. This is another late minute grubby scare tactic by the NSW Labor party.”
Local council representatives and hopefuls also responded to the news, with Mayor Daniel Myles saying trains were more efficient than cars.
“As a daily mass-transit system, cars are far less efficient than trains,” he said.
“The State Government’s 20-year transport plan must have a thriving rail/bus network as its centrepiece.”
Ward 3 Labor candidate Mick Fells said the imposition of a distance-based toll on the M4 would be a “double whammy” for motorists coming to and from the Blue Mountains.
“Firstly, the road has already been paid for . . . secondly, the original toll was paid only by those who went through the toll stations at Silverwater, distance-based tolling will see every user paying, every time they use this vital road,” he said.