BITRE report: Toll roads beneficial

Studies reveal Sydney’s M7 and Melbourne’s EastLink have seen a gradual traffic growth


Toll roads have benefited Australian road users by improving safety, and reducing both travel time and vehicle operating costs, a Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics (BITRE) report on toll roads suggests.

The report indicates that various studies have found that toll roads have "made a net positive contribution to the economic wellbeing of the country".

The report is based on a performance analysis of 16 toll roads across Australia including, eight in New South Wales, six in Queensland and two in Victoria.

It suggests that while traffic performance immediately after the opening of the road was generally bleak, the performance has varied over the time.

Transport planning, policy and data analysis specialist Chris Loader’s Traffic Volumes on Australian Toll Roads report suggests intra-city and long distance link routes have seen faster traffic growth.

The report, which examines traffic growth performance for select Australian toll roads since 2006, indicates:

  • "Most roads show a cyclical trend, with weak growth between 2008/9–2011/12 (possibly related to the global financial crisis), and strong growth in 2013/4 and onwards.
  • "Growth in traffic has been much faster on non-radial roads (intra-city long-distance link routes):

- Sydney’s M7 (Westlink) and Melbourne’s EastLink have been outstanding examples.
- Melbourne’s CityLink has seen fairly steady growth over the past five years.
- More recently, traffic on Sydney’s M2 (Hills) and M5 (South-West) has rebounded strongly."

The BITRE report highlights two separate studies that show the net benefits of Australian toll roads.

A 2008 study by Ernst & Young examined the Sydney toll roads in Sydney and their economic contribution to the state and the country.

The study, entitled The Economic Contribution of Sydney’s Toll Roads to NSW and Australia, estimated the then net present value (NPV) of the Sydney Orbital toll road projects was $22.7 billion, while the direct road user benefits was estimated to be $30.8 billion, 80 per cent of which accounted for travel time savings.

The study also indicated that improved road networks were also expected to increase the generalised system of preference (GSP) in NSW by 0.89 per cent in 2020 compared with the no toll road development scenario.

Meanwhile, a 2015 study by KPMG reported that toll roads enabled infrastructure projects to be delivered earlier than they would be expected under the traditional setup, particularly with traffic increasing across the capital cities.

"KPMG assumed a base case of delayed implementation (10 years as the central scenario), in contrast with Ernst & Young where the toll roads were never built in the base case," the report states.

"The total discounted road user benefits were estimated to be $38.3 billion in 2014 prices, 60 per cent of which were travel time savings and travel time reliability benefits."

The KPMG study, Economic Contribution of Australia’s Toll Roads, also estimated the wider economic benefits associated with toll roads amounted to $13.3 billion in discounted terms.



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