Sydney drivers will get free car registration if they spend more than $1300 a year on road tolls

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Motorists who spend more than $1300 a year on road tolls in NSW will be given free vehicle registration as the Berejiklian looks to offset the rising costs of tolls in the city.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the free registration will apply to anyone who spends more than $25 a week, on average, over a 12 month period on tolls.

“The majority of eligible motorists will save $358 a year on registration costs, with potential savings of up to $715 a year,” she said.

The premier said the state’s strong budget position – in July it posted a $4.5 surplus, allowed the move, which is expected to cost the government $100 million annually.

But with the government having reintroduced a distance-based toll on the M4, between Homebush and Parramatta in August, forcing motorists to pay anywhere between $1.77 and $4.56, as part of WestConnex, ahead of the roll out of the new tollway, which will costs motorists up to $8.60 (in 2017 prices increasing at 4% annually, more than double CPI) when the $17 billion project begins to open in 2019.

The NSW government has a series of new toll roads on the drawing board, including the F6 Extension south and a $14 billion tunnel project to Sydney’s northern beaches linked to WestConnex. The government is looking to sell its 51% stake in Sydney Motorway Corporation, the company building WestConnex.

The city currently has 10 tollways: the Hills M2 Motorway (up to $10.64), the WestConnex – New M4 (up to $4.56), the Cross City Tunnel ($5.59), Eastern Distributor (Northbound $7.16), Sydney Harbour Bridge and tunnel (up to $4, southbound), M5 South-West Motorway ($4.62), Westlink M7 Motorway (up to $7.94), Lane Cove Tunnel ($3.25) and the 200-metre long Military Road ramp ($1.63) at Neutral Bay.

Leaked NSW Cabinet documents earlier this year revealed the government was looking at either increasing the toll on the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Tunnel – or introducing a toll for southbound traffic as soon as 2022 as part of the business case for the Beaches Link tunnels.

The Beaches link tunnel would cost $5 each way, with a further $3 toll on the Western Harbour Tunnel, making a return trip between Seaforth and Rozelle cost $16.

The Cabinet document had motorists spending on average $80 a week on their weekly commute.

Last month a NSW Upper House committee recommended the government investigate a cap on the amount motorists pay on tolls across the city.

The rego rebate will be available for all standard privately registered cars, utes, 4 wheel-drives and motorcycles from July 1, 2018. Private vehicles weighing more than 2795kg, such as trucks, are not included.

WestConnex minister Stuart Ayres said the scheme will take into account toll spending from July 1, 2017.

“When the scheme kicks in we will include historic toll payments,” Ayres said.

The scheme will apply to private drivers who use any existing toll roads and will apply to any new toll roads in the future.

Drivers who use the M5 will continue to have access to the Cashback scheme, which has cost taxpayers $1.5 billion, with the cost growing as demand for refunds continues to grow.

Earlier this year, The Daily Telegraph concluded that Sydney will have more road tolls than any city in the world by 2023.

The paper estimated that a driver travelling from the northwest to the CBD would spend more than $8000 annually – $170 a week if they used the M7, M2 and Lane Cove Tunnel and Harbour Bridge or tunnel.

Opposition leader Luke Foley said motorists were still the losers in the government’s announcement.

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