The last time Kearns pensioner Gary Hudson hitched his caravan to the car and hit the road he was expecting to pay $23.90 in tolls along the M7 and the M2.
Imagine his shock when he returned from his holiday on the Central Coast to discover an invoice for $72.94.
That’s an increase of around 300 percent, and Mr Hudson, pictured, didn’t like it one bit.
“I wasn’t happy about paying so much more but also because nobody had said anything about such an increase.
“It just came out of the blue,’’ he told the South West Voice this week.
Mr Hudson quickly informed his local MP, Anoulack Chanthivong, the NRMA magazine Open Road, the NSW transport minister and Transurban, the operators of the tolls on the M7 and the M2.
He quickly found out that late last year Transurban changed the toll classification so that caravans could be charged the same toll as trucks on those two roads.
However Transurban pointed the finger at the state government, saying they changed the classifications which enabled caravans to be charged the same toll as heavy vehicles.
In their reply dated January 21 this year, Transurban told Mr Hudson that “until recently some vehicles on Sydney’s toll roads have been classified incorrectly as Class A instead of Class B vehicles. This has now been fixed so that vehicles are being classed correctly.
“I apologise for any inconvenience caused, however I can assure you that the classification has not changed at all.
“While we appreciate your comments and suggestions in relation to vehicle classification, these are set in accordance with the state government.’’
Under the changes for the M2 and M7 toll roads, a car and caravan that is greater than 12.5 metres in total length and more than 2.8 metres high is now deemed a Class B vehicle, attracting a toll three times that for Class A vehicles such as cars.
Mr Hudson says that doesn’t make sense and the huge increase will really hurt a lot of people who make multiple trips along the two toll roads while towing their caravan.
“I don’t go on as many trips with the caravan as I used to do, but even an extra $50 in tolls is still a lot of money for a retiree,’’ Mr Hudson said.
MP Anoulack Chanthivong, pictured above with a couple of caravan owners in February (before social distancing restrictions) agrees and has called on the state government to act by removing the “holiday tax’’ being charged on the M2 and M7 Motorways.
The Macquarie Fields MP, who has also started a petition on this issue, says it’s “ludicrous that pensioners towing a caravan are charged the same toll as multinational companies transporting freight’’.
“It is equally ludicrous to suggest a towed caravan causes the same wear and tear on our roads as a B-double truck.”
The State Government has responded by telling Mr Chanthivong there were no plans to change the vehicle classifications contained in the contractual arrangements with all motorways.
Mr Hudson in the meantime says he will now have to stop advising other caravan owners to use the M7 and the M2.
“In my caravan travels I have spoken to many people around this great country of ours, many of whom were concerned about driving their caravan through Sydney,’’ he says.
“I explained to them how to avoid the heavy traffic and red lights by travelling via the M7 and M2. This also takes caravans off the city roads.
“However, this 300 percent increase in costs now makes this difficult to justify.’’