The Sir Leo Hielscher bridges on the M1 Gateway Motorway
The Sir Leo Hielscher bridges on the M1 Gateway Motorway

Secret move that could take its toll

QUEENSLAND'S only toll road operator wants a long-term contract to maintain the northern section of the Gateway Motorway, under a deal that could lead to toll increases.

The State Opposition uncovered the proposal in documents obtained under a Right to Information request that also showed Transurban was developing plans in 2016 for limited discounts to toll users.

The discount plan to help bust congestion on southeast Queensland's clogged roads has since been rejected in a move blasted by Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington.

"It is pure profiteering for Transurban to abandon a pilot program to provide discounts to toll road users," she said.

"Transurban are taking motorists for a ride by charging the maximum possible tolls."

Transurban group general manager Sue Johnson
Transurban group general manager Sue Johnson

Transurban group general manager Sue Johnson last month told a parliamentary inquiry into the toll road system the company had to apply tolls at the maximum rate.

"We made a decision to invest $7 billion based on toll prices that were set by the government of the day," she said.

"Transurban is not in a position to discount."

Transurban's proposal to maintain the northern section of the Gateway Motorway, whose upgrade is due for completion later this year, was included in a brief for Transport Minister Mark Bailey before his first meeting with Ms Johnson in January.

Transurban currently has similar agreements with the State Government and Brisbane City Council for upgrading and maintaining the Inner City Bypass and Logan Motorway.

That work will be funded through toll increases, which mainly target trucks, however will also include an extra slug for all motorists on the Legacy Way tunnel from 2020.

The Sir Leo Hielscher bridges on the M1 Gateway Motorway
The Sir Leo Hielscher bridges on the M1 Gateway Motorway

Truck drivers started paying the increased tolls last month when the toll for the Go Between Bridge increased from $8.52 to $9.64, the Clem7 from $13.64 to $15.44 and Legacy Way from $14.35 to $17.50.

The Logan Motorway upgrade, due for completion next year, will be funded through higher tolls on heavy vehicles and an extra tolling point on new ramps at Compton Rd.

The brief to Mr Bailey says the maintenance proposal is being "considered" but the Government was "under no obligation to agree".

Ms Frecklington called for the Government to reject Transurban's proposal.

"The Palaszczuk Government needs to stop privatising our roads by stealth," she said.

"It is a rip-off to transfer maintenance obligations on non-toll roads to Transurban in exchange for higher tolls.

"Motorists already pay enough and they shouldn't be slugged more."