Sydney traffic: NSW Cities Minister Rob Stokes grilled over congestion charges

NSW’s Minister for Cities and Active Transport, Rob Stokes, has come under fire after a newly released report seemed to indicate the government had plans to charge motorists for driving in the Sydney CBD.

Congestion charges have been used in Singapore and London to reduce inner-city congestion by charging drivers to enter a zoned area within the city.

When asked about the future of a congestion charge for drivers entering Sydney’s metropolitan area, Mr Stokes told a Budget Estimates hearing on Tuesday the NSW government had “clearly ruled that out”.

Unhappy with the answer, Labor MLC Daniel Mookhey drilled down on the specifics of a newly released Future Transport Strategy report released on Monday.

“All your documents are describing everything you would need in place to impose a congestion charge,” Mr Mookhey said.

“So when you’re saying that you’re ruling it out, the real reality is that you’re setting yourself up to apply it at some future date; that’s correct, isn’t it?”

“No,” Mr Stokes replied.

The Future Transport Strategy report outlines the state government‘s 50-year plan to improve the transport system.

It indicates that as congestion in metropolitan zones becomes an increasing area of concern, there are plans to solve the problem by exploring charges which are “clearer, fair and more efficient”.

“Current levies, fees and charges for road use include the fuel excise, stamp duty, licence and vehicle registration fees, and in Greater Sydney, a network of tolled routes,” the report reads.

“There is an opportunity to reduce congestion and improve travel choices by exploring charges that are clearer, fairer, more efficient and more sustainable.”

Later in the hearing, Greens MLC Abigail Boyd circled back to the issue to clarify that Sydney drivers would not be facing more charges to drive on the city’s roads.

Ms Boyd probed Mr Stokes on whether the government was considering a broader road user charge to deal with congestion.

Rather, the Minister Cities said that adjustments to the city’s toll network, as well as a plan to scrap stamp duty on the purchase of electric vehicles, were part of the government’s plans.

“Effectively, the main concern is over time, as the tax base for fuel excise becomes smaller and smaller, we won’t be able to rely on Commonwealth support to help us pay for the transport network, so we’re going to have to find alternatives,” Mr Stokes said.

Originally published as Minister grilled over plans to charge drivers to enter Sydney CBD

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