We believe in the value we provide to road users in exchange for the tolls we collect. Road tolls cover the costs for the construction, operation and maintenance of safe, reliable, efficient road networks. Tolling is a type of user-pays model where road users pay to directly cover the costs of the infrastructure in proportion to how often they use it.
In contrast, Australia’s current model for funding public road infrastructure is largely based on collecting indirect revenue from fuel excise, vehicle registrations and licence fees.
Today, funding for Australia’s road expenditure requirements is raised mainly through fuel excise. Our society’s progress towards more fuel-efficient cars, while good for the environment, means that the current funding model is becoming less effective. To counter this drop in revenue, the state governments which are responsible for the roads have increased vehicle registrations and licence fees. Additional funds are also sought from other sources. While not directly traceable, these sources are likely to include GST distributions, council rates and land stamp duty, suggesting non-drivers subsidise those who drive.
The system is complex and opaque with road users largely unaware of the contribution they make to fund the roads they drive on. This means Australians are unlikely to appreciate the inherent inequities of the current system and the growing need for a solution.
In FY15, Transurban undertook significant research and made a number of presentations about road infrastructure funding in Australia.
This included keynote speeches at the 2015 Infrastructure Partners Australia Awards and Australian Financial Review Infrastructure Summit, the release of a road pricing discussion paper and the publication of research into public attitudes towards Australian transport infrastructure.
We also launched a Connected Cities microsite to help raise awareness about this issue.
Road usage study
Transurban is advancing the discussion about road pricing reform by undertaking real-world research into possible alternatives.
Over the course of FY16, Transurban will be conducting a study to trial various forms of user-pays pricing systems on Melbourne roads. This will involve approximately 1,200 volunteer private vehicle drivers from across the greater capital city area of Melbourne participating to test concepts such as distance-based pricing, annual fixed costs or price per trip. This study is the first step to gaining a real, practical understanding of road user preferences and attitudes toward pricing alternatives in Australia.
The study will have no impact on the current funding arrangements for existing roads, for Transurban or the broader network.
By undertaking this research, Transurban will be able to provide meaningful insight into the opinions and preferences of road users for alternative road funding options.