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Tolls: the game no-one wants to play

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Toll roads capturing all motorists will not be introduced in South Australia under a Weatherill Government or a Marshall Government, both sides of politics confirmed today.

With a state election less than 10 weeks away, the issue surfaced again last night when local media reported toll roads were back on the agenda.

“Toll roads must be considered to help fund crucial infrastructure, Business SA says,” headlined The Advertiser last night.

The yarn was a “chase for a headline”, BusinessSA said today.

“The Advertiser rang me chasing or looking for a headline I think,” McBride told ABC Radio breakfast presenter Spence Denny.

“They asked if we should consider tolls and we said yes, tolls have to be considered; and if they’re considered and rejected, then so be it.”

Road charges: how they work in other jurisdictions

McBride said South Australia has “huge infrastructure needs” and the State had a choice – either fund it by public debt or fund it through a partnership with the public sector.

“It’s a question of how we pay for it.

“It’s either by taxes or charges, or if the private sector has to fund it, then extra charges will be passed back onto the consumer.

“If we want to grow, we want to have first class infrastructure and someone has to pay for it.”

In the meantime, it again put the spotlight on the major political parties to “rule in or out” the policy of toll roads.

And they did – although alternative terms such as “network charging”, “user pays” and “heavy truck bypass” emerged as possible contenders for funding new roads.

As the morning radio shows pushed the toll issue, there was a rush to say “not on our watch” by political leaders.

Premier Jay Weatherill explained (again) on FIVEaa that whenever funding of new infrastructure is discussed, then tolls will be raised.

“The discussion we were having with the Freight Council was in the context of the Northern Connector,” he said.

“We’ve asked the Commonwealth for a contribution to that and the private sector, who are also calling for this offered a contribution.

“The concept of network charging was discussed.

“It’s an arrangement where the toll is calculated by way of GPS or similar, but these were very early  discussions of early ideas.

“It’s not a toll. It’s based on the broader use of the network.”

The Premier reiterated his earlier statements that his advice is that tolls are not an effective form of funding in South Australia.

“Tolls aren’t effective here because there are too many other routes that vehicles can escape through.”

Later on ABC Radio, the Premier made it clear that there would be no tolls on passenger vehicles.

Opposition transport spokeswoman Vickie Chapman weighed in.

“I’ve absolutely no doubt he wants people to pay,” she told the ABC.

“Mums and Dads will pay this; there’s nothing more certain.”

When asked what the Liberal Party policy is, the answer had a familiar ring: “There will be no toll roads under a Marshall Government.”

Former Premier Mike Rann made a very public pledge in March 2006 that would never be a toll road under a Rann Government.

Toll – it’s the word that strikes fear into every state MP.

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