By Victoria Stone-Meadows
A truck driver from Narre Warren South is worried that the increase in tolls for heavy commercial vehicles will hurt his bottom line, making his small business less competitive.
Graeme Bevis is a tow truck driver who uses CityLink on a daily basis to transport containers and transport machinery into the city.
He has been in business for about 14 years, but is concerned the most recent increase in tolls on the CityLink will price himself out of the industry.
“I don’t know what I’m going to do,” he said.
“I will have to pass it on to my customers, and come 1 April the cost will be more than double, and I’m worried I can’t do it any more after that.”
Mr Bevis received a letter from CityLink dated 23 January, informing him that the cost of travelling in heavy commercial vehicles on the toll road will increase from 1.9 times that of a car to 3 times.
The daily toll cap of travelling on CityLink in such a vehicle is currently $11.85 but is set to increase to $26.70 after 1 April.
“It is really going to hurt my business,” Mr Bevis said.
“Clients will shop around to try to find a cheaper operator, and a lot of people in my industry are not happy about it.”
The letter from CityLink informed Mr Bevis that an increase in the cost of tolls will be used to help fund the CityLink Tulla Widening project.
The project to widen the Tullamarine Freeway and upgrade intersections and interchanges will cost a total of $1.28 billion.
It is jointly funded by the Federal Government, the Victorian State Government and CityLink’s operator Transurban.
The letter also states that the new toll prices will bring the cost of traveling on CityLink in line with other toll roads.
However, the daily toll cap of travelling in a heavy commercial vehicle on Melbourne’s other major toll road, EastLink, is $16.01
A Transurban spokesperson said the freight industry had been aware of the coming changes for some time, but added the widening project would improve traffic.
“The changes were announced in 2014, and we’ve been working with the freight industry for more than two years so they could be prepared for these changes,” the spokesperson said.
“The CityLink Tulla Widening Project will improve productivity for the freight industry.”
“The benefits of the project include travel time savings of about 30 minutes on a return trip between the city tunnels and Melbourne Airport, more reliable travel times with a 30 per cent increase in capacity, and a safer road with 20 per cent fewer casualty crashes.”
Transurban is contributing around $1 billion towards the $1.28 billion CityLink Tulla Widening project.
“Tolls for trucks on other toll road operators are between 2.7 and 3.3 times a car and on many other roads interstate they are 3.0 times a car,” the spokesperson said.
Shadow Roads Minister Ryan Smith said business operators should expect to be hit with increased tolls when major road work operations get underway.
“I think people expect to pay tolls on these roads,” he said.
“Obviously, the deal struck with Transurban to pay for the Tulla widening did involve those increases of tolls, but I think the business operators who use it should expect the level of disruption to be kept at a minimum.”
Brad Battin MP State Member for Gembrook also weighed in on the debate, saying the tolls increase is the fault of the current State Government.
“Daniel Andrews’ decision to make local family businesses and truck drivers the losers in Victoria is unfair and outrageous,” he said.
“The unjustified increase in tolls and registrations will place pressure on business in Casey and Cardinia, cost local jobs and place the truck driving industry at risk.”