Leaked government documents, which Premier Gladys Berejiklian refused to release to the public, reveal she misled the public about the impact of the new M4 toll.
A week after the toll was reintroduced Ms Berejiklian said traffic on the widened M4 had only dropped by a quarter.
However leaked traffic reports, which the Liberal Government kept hidden from the public but disclosed to potential WestConnex buyers, reveal that traffic dropped by 600,000 vehicles or 42 per cent in the week following the M4 toll’s reintroduction on 15 August 2017.
Despite the 42 per cent drop in trips the Premier claimed in the following week that on the first day of the toll’s reintroduction traffic only dropped 25 per cent and she insisted those numbers were improving every day.
Ms Berejiklian said:
“On the first day ... we were around 25 per cent (down) so it was much lower than usual. Ordinarily it’s 40 and it takes a month or two to get back up but I think, from the figures I saw, that 25 per cent was going down every day.” (August 22, 2017).
Either Ms Berejiklian was deliberately misleading the public to play down the unpopularity of the M4 toll or she was simply not across her brief.
New analysis by NSW Labor based on the leaked reports also reveals that Western Sydney motorists will have paid off the $497 million widened M4 in just two years.
However, motorists will continue to pay to use the M4 for a further 41 years with regular commuters paying more than $2,000 a year for the toll which increases by at least four per cent every year.
NSW Labor has previously lodged a Freedom of Information request and called on the Government to release the data it collects on patronage numbers on the M4 so that public policy on tolls can be informed by facts and figures, not spin and deception.
Quotes attributable to NSW Opposition Leader Luke Foley
“The Premier didn’t want to admit it but these leaked reports show that drivers abandoned the M4 after the unpopular toll was reintroduced.
“I suspect the Premier was trying to hide the level of discontent amongst Western Sydney motorists about this whopping new toll that was reintroduced on the M4 – why else would you downplay and mislead the public about the true extent of the drop in traffic?
“The culture of secrecy in the Berejiklian Government is out of hand. It shouldn’t take leaked documents for the public to find out what’s going on with taxpayer funded roads.
“This unfair and unaffordable toll is nothing more than a tax on Western Sydney.”
Quotes attributable to Shadow Minister for Roads Jodi McKay
“In August, I asked the Premier to release the M4 traffic figures so she couldn’t get away with pulling figures out of her hat to justify the toll. Now we know that’s exactly what she tried to do.
“Drivers will be slugged a toll on the M4 for 43 years despite the road being paid off in two. It’s proof that Western Sydney is paying for other road projects that they won’t benefit from.
“Labor continues to call for greater transparency around WestConnex. We want to lift the veil of secrecy that this Government is hiding behind and shed some light on the highly contentious issue of tolls for Western Sydney motorists.”