Victorian drivers will be hit with road tolls until 2045 to help pay for the $6.7 billion West Gate Tunnel if the second-term Andrews Labor government gets its way.
A proposal reached parliament on Wednesday to extend fees for the CityLink connecting road by another decade – on top of the current 2035 expiry – as part of its deal with multi-billion dollar toll road operator Transurban, to help build the new tunnel.
Premier Daniel Andrews argues unless the CityLink tolls are extended the cost of the tunnel will be borne by all Victorian taxpayers.
“That means less money for hospitals, less money for schools, less money for all the other things we do,” he told reporters.
“We would urge all members of parliament to respect the clear mandate the government was given at the end of last year at the election to get on and get things done.”
Mr Andrews did not rule out further new toll roads or toll extensions in future to pay for new projects.
“We are a growing state and we want to continue investing in the infrastructure that makes a real difference … there’ll always need to be a contribution from road users,” he said.
The new contract would overrule a previous clause which would see Transurban handed compensation for projects which divert traffic from their tollways.
It also allows for regular price increases on tolls charged across the Transurban network. The government needs the support of three upper house crossbenchers to pass its tolls extension bill and the road has the backing of the Victorian Chamber of Commerce.
Opposition Leader Michael O’Brien said it was a “bad deal for motorists” and a “money-spinner for Transurban”.
“People who drive on CityLink, who may never go on the West Gate Tunnel, are going to be slugged with extra tolls for 10 years and higher tolls for another 10 years,” he said.
Transurban approached Labor before the 2014 state election with an idea for the road. The company would be compensated if the bill is not successful, but Mr Andrews would not reveal what that financial cost would be.
Mr O’Brien said the opposition is working on making the details of the deal between the government and Transurban public.