The National Party still needs to answer the hard questions on toll roads, says the car buyers’ Dog & Lemon Guide.
Editor Clive Matthew-Wilson said today:
“National is riding into the election on a series of vague promises and denials. For example, their transport spokesman said on Sunday that some motorists could be paying $50 a week for road tolls after the election. Then National retracted that statement, saying the real tolls would be much lower. Either National hasn’t done its maths, or it’s hiding something from the voters. Taxpayers have a right to know what the real-world costs of these public-private partnerships will be.”
The Dog & Lemon Guide has posed a number of yet-unanswered questions to the National Party.
1) In 2006, Treasury concluded that funding roads by tolls was less efficient than simply building them from taxes. What is National’s response to this?
2) One of National’s advisors is former party leader Jim McLay, who is executive chairman of Macquarie New Zealand, a branch of a major Australian builder of toll roads. Because of the clear conflict of interest in such an arrangement, can National categorically promise that it will not sign a contract with Macquarie or its subsidiary companies?
3) Many toll road projects in Australia have been an economic disaster. For example, the Brisbane’s newest toll road, EastLink, is currently running at 28% below projections and Sydney’s Cross City Tunnel project went bankrupt.
Can National categorically promise that it will not sign a deal whereby the government has to compensate the private road builders if the road builders make less money than they expected?
4) Metronet, a public-private partnership responsible for maintaining and upgrading two-thirds of London's underground network, went bankrupt, leaving the taxpayer to bail out the project to the tune of billions of pounds.
Can National categorically promise that it will not sign a deal whereby the government has to pay out any part of the road building costs in the event that the project goes bankrupt?
5) National’s transport spokesman Maurice Williamson has stated publicly that National will repeal the ‘Greens amendment’ that requires that whenever a toll road is built, the public must always have an alternative route available for free.
Can National categorically promise that it will not sign a deal whereby existing roads are closed down or restricted in order to force motorists to use a nearby toll road?
6) Will National legislate to control the tolls on private roads, or will the private road operator be free to charge whatever the market will stand?
7) Faced with high fuel bills, many motorists are now looking to take public transport to work.
Can National categorically promise that it will not sign a deal whereby public transport is effectively excluded or restricted from competing with a toll road?