Toll road operator Transurban says it wants to build “hot lanes” on Australian arterial roads, saying a trial in America debunks the myth that only rich people pay to use premium express lanes.
Speaking to The Australian, Transurban chief executive Scott Charlton said the company had spent nearly $700 million on an express lanes project in the US state of Virginia, providing quicker access to the Pentagon precinct.
The tolled express lanes, which operate alongside the free lanes, use dynamic pricing that changes depending on traffic speed and density. Vehicles that have more than three occupants, motorbikes and buses use the express lanes for free.
“A fair part of the day they are not occupied. Could you pay to access those if you get a better run? There could be options for some of the major roads to use express lanes. We have always struggled with the politics here because there is a misconception in Australia this type of thing would just be for the wealthy.”
He added, “People see the benefits, they understand what they are paying. That intersects with a wider model around a road user charging system.”
He said Transurban’s analysis showed the average user of the i395 drives a Toyota Camry, uses the road two or three times per month and pays less than $US20 ($A29) a month in tolls.
“When they do use the road they are time poor and need certainty of travel time. The express lanes are well received by the customers because there is always a free option,’’ he said.
Transurban operates Sydney’s Cross City Tunnel, Eastern Distributor, Lane Cove Tunnel and Hills M2 Motorway, Melbourne’s CityLink, and Brisbane’s Gateway Motorway, Logan Motorway, Legacy Way, Go Between Bridge, Airportlink and Clem7.
It currently has nine road toll projects under construction in Australia, including Melbourne’s West Gate Tunnel and Sydney’s WestConnex and NorthConnex.
A Transurban spokeswoman said there were “currently no plans to roll out similar dynamic pricing initiatives in Australia”.
Originally published as Plan for premium motorway ‘hot lanes’