March 07, 2014

Horse 1632 - Toll Roads, Toll Roads and Toll Roads

Jeremy is on a bridge, James is in a helicopter and I am on a bus.

- Jeremy Clarkson is on a bridge (used without permission)

I live in a country at the top of the world, or the bottom according to your point of view; in a city that's built around a harbour. So instead of getting around on trains, buses or ferries, some of the people that live there have to travel in cars; cars which require roads.
You'd think that roads would be something that a government would plan as it was considering the infrastructure of a city but in New South Wales and especially Sydney, governments are incredibly short-sighted in this respect and leave road planning to private companies from whom politicians are expecting kick-backs once they retire from parliament. Isn't it funny how Bob Carr landed in a golden pillow at  Macquarie Group after being premier, or how Nick Greiner went on to land directorships at more than a few private equity companies and is now Chairman of Infrastructure NSW thanks to current Premier Barry O'Farrell? Nothing like feathering the nest is there.

The nine¹ toll roads in Sydney (M2, M5, M7,Harbour Bridge, Harbour Tunnel, Falcon St, Gore Hill Tunnel, Cross City Tunnel and Eastern Distributor) are the largest number of toll roads in a single city and possibly province in the world. Sydney has more toll roads than quite a number of nations. There are more toll roads in Sydney for instance that the entire of Germany.
People used to joke about carrying a bag of coins if you wanted to travel down the Autostradas in Italy. Thankfully in the twenty first century we have dispensed with the need from coins and now toll road operators can collect revenues directly from your credit card via electronic tags.
It is technically possible to do a loop of Sydney using only the toll roads. If you were foolish enough to attempt such a flight of fatuousness, you would soon be parted from $31.20.

On top of this, most people who actually have to use the toll roads live further away from anything and are already paying more for petrol and taxation than people who live closer to the city usually earn less money in the first place, so they are in effect a penalty for being less well off.

I'm fortunate in that I live near well connected public transport but for the poor schmucks who live in West Grumblegalah and North Woop Woop² it all seems unfair to me. Isn't that what we pay road tax for? The provision of roads?! Apparently not.


¹Nine. NINE?! Not two or five or seven, but NINE, which are wielded on all wretched motorists, motorists just like you.
²I only found out today that there actually is a place called Woop Woop. It is located in the Donnybrook Balingup Region of WA - postcode 6239.

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