Motorists 'condemned' to paying tolls under privatisation: RACQ

Queensland's peak motoring body has called on the state government to scrap its planned sale of the toll roads

April 28, 2010

The state’s peak motoring body has called on the government to scrap its planned sale of the toll roads, arguing the privatisation of Queensland Motorways will effectively condemn motorists to paying tolls on key roads for the next 50 years.

According to RACQ, those in south-east Queensland, who are the greatest users of roads controlled by the government-owned company (including the Gateway and Logan motorways), would be particularly hard hit by Premier Anna Bligh’s proposed asset sell-off.

General manager for external relations Gary Fites says it would be more efficient and more equitable for road users and taxpayers if Queensland Motorways Limited (QML) remained 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," Fites says.

"Brisbane’s major bypass system should not be controlled by a private operator obliged to maximise returns to shareholders," he says.

"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."

According to Fites, the entity which buys QML can only make money through toll revenue, whereas if it remains in government hands, the tolls on the road system could be "reduced or done away with completely".

He says the only rationale for the sale is to generate a once-off cash injection estimated between $3 billion and $5 billion to get the QML debt off the government’s books.

"The RACQ calls on the Queensland Government not to privatise QML but rather focus its attention on efforts to secure further commitments from the Federal Government for funding for a much needed upgrade to the Gateway Motorway north to the Bruce Highway under the Nation Building Program – a commitment which can only be realised if the motorway remains under the control of the State Government."

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