Just before Midnight tonight, the M5’s Hammondville toll gates will collect the last cash toll in Australia – with every other toll road already converted to electronic tolling. The Sydney Habour Bridge collected the first toll back in March 1932 when it opened – a mere six pence.
However, the toll will remain. From Monday the only payment method will be by eTag or ePass. When the toll gates opened in 1992, it was just $1.50. 21 years later, it has quickly risen much faster than inflation to $4.40. A complicated cashback system operates for NSW residents using the road for private use.
Roads Minster Duncan Gay is expecting improvements to traffic flow but some short term inconvenience, “There will be changed conditions on the motorway as a result of the conversion to cashless tolling, and associated work to realign lanes and remove the toll booths, which is expected to happen in September. Motorists are urged to plan their journeys ahead, and drive safely to the changed conditions.”
“We will make this changeover to cashless tolling as seamless as possible and will work to minimize disruption to motorists.”
“Motorists will be informed of any traffic changes by Variable Message Signs and fixed signage on and around the M5 South West Motorway,” Roads Minister said at the announcement earlier this year.
Next year was the original date the road was due to revert to public ownership and likely become toll free. However, the Government extended the concession period three times including for the missing link through Casula (1993), the Moorebank Avenue interchange (2002) and the current expansion project from two to three lanes between the Crossroads at Casula and King Georges Road.
Work on the current extension is expected next year. However, that is unlikely to solve the consistent congestion with the M5 East expansion project beyond King Georges Road still in planning without a firm start or end date.
Some funding has been announced by both Federal and State Governments. The Federal Opposition has also pledged funds for the project should it win Government at this year’s election. However, more tolls will be required to make the project possible.
The cash might have gone but long live the Tollway.