Tolls may be needed for NSW Pacific Highway upgrade

Saturday, December 24, 2005

A typical single carriageway section of the highway. This particular section is at Coopernook and carries around 17,000 vehicles per day

In a joint statement Friday by Australian federal Roads Minister Jim Lloyd and his New South Wales counterpart Joe Tripodi said that tolls were being considered to fast track upgrades of the Pacific Highway. Over Half of the highway between the F3 freeway terminus at Beresfield on Newcastle and the Queensland border is still single carriageway.

Despite the New England Highway being the "national" highway from the F3 to Brisbane, traffic along the Pacific Highway is almost three times heavier on most sections [1]. By 2021, traffic on the Pacific Highway is expected to rise by 35 percent.

The New South Wales Roads and Traffic Authority estimates that to complete the dual carriageway "North Coast Motorway" (Pacific Highway upgrade) by 2016 would cost $AU8 Billion. Since the major upgrades began in 1996, $AU2.2 Billion has been spent. Around 40 to 50 people die on the Pacific Highway every year.

Mr Lloyd said "If there are sections of the Pacific Highway where you can get private sector involvement, get it built quickly, provide value for money for those who wish to use it and alternative routes for those who choose not to, then I think let's go for it". The proposal could introduce tolls on some sections of the highway with other sections (that are completely publically funded) remaining toll free.

A dual-carriageway section of the highway near Karuah. This opened in 2004

The plans have drawn mixed results from transport groups. A spokesperson for the NRMA, the largest motorist's organisation in NSW said that tolls should only be considered as a "last resort". He further added that if the only way the road could be upgraded was by use of tolls then the NRMA would agree with conditions. He said that any toll should not exceed $AU20.

Tourism and transport lobby group TTF Australia welcomed the move but warned that NSW north coast communities should not be disadvantaged through the introduction of a toll. Managing director Chris Brown said "We don't expect north coast communities to pay 10 bucks to go and get a bottle of milk".

Key facts

  • Within NSW Pacific Highway extends from the Bradfield Highway in Sydney and runs approximately 900 km to the NSW/Queensland border.
  • Approximately 140 km of the Pacific Highway was superseeded from Sydney to Newcastle by the F3 (Sydney - Newcastle) Freeway. The F3 opened in sections from 1963 to 1993.
  • The section of highway being focused on by the two governments is between Hexham and the NSW/QLD Border. This runs parallel to the NSW North Coast. It is around 730 km in length. Since 1996, less than half of the highway has been duplicated.
  • At present there is no direct link between the F3 freeway and Pacific Highway.
  • When the Pacific Highway is upgraded, there will be around 910 km of continuous motorway between Wahroonga in Sydney's North and Brisbane.
  • The National Highway (utilising the F3 and New England Highway) between Wahroonga and Brisbane is around 930Km in length