Taking a new toll on drivers
DRIVERS are being warned they could face higher tolls if Transurban buys a majority stake in West Connex.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has declared “concerns” about Transurban taking over more tollways. The nation’s largest toll road operator already holds seven of nine NSW tollways, including the M1, M2, M5 and M7.
ACCC chairman Rod Sims said the $16.8 billion West Connex was a “very significant toll road asset” and an opportunity to introduce a rival operator.
He warned drivers could “lose the benefits” of competit- ion if Transurban acquired the West Connex toll concession.
“An alternative owner of West Connex might lower tolls for certain trips, or make changes to its roads or services to ease traffic congestion in attempts to attract more vehicles away from Transurban roads,” Mr Sims said. “We are concerned that the proposed acquisition may cement Transurban’s advantages when competing for future toll roads.”
He called for more submissions from interested parties. The ACCC is now assessing the bid by Sydney Transport Partners, the consortium led by Transurban, against the likely alternative scenario if it did not proceed.
Transurban is the only operator in the past 30 years to have been granted a toll road concession in Australia following an unsolicited proposal to a state government, the ACCC reported.
“If West Connex is acquired by an alternative bidder, there would be two major toll road operators in Sydney,” Mr Sims said. “Those two players would likely compete strongly for future toll road projects and vie for government approval for unsolicited road proposals.”
Only three toll roads in Australia are not operated by Transurban, including the Harbour Bridge and Harbour tunnel. The ACCC decision is due on July 19.