Traffic slows, toll prices will still rise


Toll giant Transurban says contracted price increases will still apply in Sydney and Melbourne roads from Wednesday even as coronavirus lockdown measures put the brakes on traffic volume.

Tolls for cars will increase by between 2.0 and 8.0 cents a trip on some of Sydney’s toll roads and trips on Melbourne’s CityLink will increase by between 1.0 and 10 cents.

Tolls on Sydney’s WestConnex will not be changing but heavy vehicle tolls on some Transurban roads will jump by as much as 20 cents per trip.

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 stagnates amid the spread of COVID-19.

The ASX-listed firm on Wednesday also scrapped its 31 cents per share distribution guidance for the second half of 2020 as government’s efforts to contain the coronavirus spread drive a significant drop in traffic.

Australians are being urged to stay at home unless they are working, studying, attending medical appointments or collecting essential supplies.

Average daily traffic volume on Transurban’s toll roads has subsequently fallen by 14 per cent during the month, including by 36 per cent in the final week of March.

Average daily traffic on a number of Transurban’s Sydney and Melbourne roads had already been hurt by “softer economic conditions and weaker housing activity” in the second half of 2019.

In Sydney, where the company operates the Eastern Distributor, M2, Cross City Tunnel, and Lane Cove Tunnel, traffic dropped by another 11 per cent in March.

In Melbourne, where Transurban runs the CityLink M1 and M2 roads, average daily traffic fell by 17 per cent for the month.

Total Queensland traffic volumes including roads such as the Gateway and Logan motorways in Brisbane dropped one per cent.

Transurban said the speed of deterioration correlated with heightening government responses to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.

Commercial traffic has displayed greater resilience to date, with large vehicles growing as a proportion of revenue to 37 per cent in most recent week of March.

Express lanes traffic and revenue – 11 per cent of total $1.4 billion 1H20 revenue – is more sensitive given lack of congestion on adjacent general purpose lanes.

Quarterly price increases are applied to Sydney and Melbourne roads at the start of January, April, July and October each year, and annually in Brisbane.

Transurban shares were worth $12.04 before trade on Wednesday, down nearly 20 per cent for the year.

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