COVID-19 puts toll traffic in slow lane


Only three of Transurban’s 17 toll roads got busier during the March quarter – and one of those was in the United States – as coronavirus restrictions slowed average daily traffic across Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.

Car trips on nearly all the company’s Australian roads fell in the three months to March 31, with the decline accelerating into the final weeks of the quarter as government-imposed measures forced people indoors.

Between March 1 and March 29, average daily traffic across the Transurban network fell by 48 per cent.

The figure eased slightly to a 47 per cent drop for the five weeks to April 5.

The only local roads to experience a lift in daily traffic growth in the March quarter were Sydney’s M4 network and the Logan Motorway in Brisbane, while the 95 Express lanes near Washington DC also increased in volume.

Average daily traffic across the company’s entire network was down 4.8 per cent on the same period in 2019.

Traffic growth has slumped to a completely flat figure across the three quarters of FY20 so far.

Excluding an increase in volumes on Sydney’s M4 network, average daily car trips across the company would have fallen by 5.3 per cent.

Sydney’s car traffic fell by 5.2 per cent, including a 13.7 per cent drop for Lane Cove Tunnel traffic and an 11.5 per cent drop for the Hills M2 road.

The city’s quarterly car traffic decline would have been 6.5 per cent were it not for the M4 volume increase.

Trips on Melbourne’s CityLink road dropped by 6.7 per cent – or by 57,000 – compared with a year ago.

Average weekend and public holiday traffic dropped by 9.7 per cent in Melbourne over the quarter and by 9.1 per cent in Sydney.

On April 1, Transurban activated price increases on its Sydney and Melbourne roads even as coronavirus lockdown measures put the brakes on traffic volume.

The company said the scheduled price increases would allow it to invest further in support major construction projects and maintain employment for thousands of employees and subcontractors as traffic stagnated amid the spread of COVID-19.

The ASX-listed firm has scrapped its 31 cents per share distribution guidance for the second half of 2020.

Shares in the company were worth $12.88 before trade on Thursday and are 13.62 per cent lower in 2020 against a 18.21 per cent downturn for the wider ASX/200.

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