29 April 2010

Fears motorway sale will drive up tolls prompts call for CPI limit


AUSTRALIA'S leading motoring body fears Ipswich residents could be slugged with higher tolls to use the Logan Motorway if the state-owned Queensland Motorways is privatised.

The RACQ said the sale of the government-owned corporation would condemn motorists to paying increased tolls on the motorway for the next 50 years.

Queensland Motorways has been put up for sale by the State Government along with parts of Queensland Rail and other state assets under Premier Anna Bligh's privatisation plan.

RACQ general manager for external relations Gary Fites said his group would fight for Queensland Motorways Limited (QML) to remain in public hands.

"There is a sound economic argument to show that the state's road infrastructure should be managed as a single integrated network for the benefit of all," Mr Fites said.

"And the decision to dispose of the tolling rights held by QML through a 50-year franchise arrangement would effectively condemn motorists to the payment of tolls on key south-east Queensland roads through to 2060.

"The entity that buys QML can make money only one way, and that's through toll revenue."

He said if it remained government owned, the tolls on the Logan Motorway could be reduced or done away with completely within the 50-year period.

Ipswich City Councillor Paul Tully, whose electorate borders on a stretch of the Logan Motorway, said QML should only be sold if the government retained control of toll prices.

Cr Tully said price rises should only go up in accordance with the Consumer Price Index (CPI), otherwise thousands of Ipswich residents would be disadvantaged.

"It's the gateway to the Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast and Brisbane Airport for the majority of Ipswich residents," Cr Tully said.

"People don't mind paying a reasonable toll for the motorway, but if it increases above the CPI rate it would affect a lot people.

"You could then have a situation where people avoid the toll road, which will lead to other roads becoming more congested."

Acting Premier Paul Lucas said it was unlikely the State Government would have removed the toll on the Logan and Gateway motorways.

Mr Lucas told reporters the tolls would have stayed in place because the revenue was used to fund infrastructure.

"Queensland Motorways Limited has a long-term franchise in any event that it has under public ownership," he said.

"The RACQ's position on toll roads is well known – they don't support the Gateway being a toll road full stop – so that's been their announced position."

LNP Leader John-Paul Langbroek said the RACQ was standing up for Queensland motorists who already paid the highest vehicle registration fees in the nation.

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