Motorists are set to be slugged up to $6.95 to travel on a 20-year-old motorway connecting some of Sydney’s poorest suburbs when a toll is introduced.
Drivers will be forced to pay to use the previously free M5 East motorway, which runs from Beverly Hills to General Holmes Drive at Mascot.
The toll will be introduced in the next few weeks in conjunction with the opening of the M8 motorway from Kingsgrove to St Peters.
The M5 East motorway that runs between Beverly Hills and Mascot will begin to charge motorists a fee of up to $6.95 one-way within a few weeks time
Suburbs surrounding the motorway were some of the areas most impacted by coronavirus job losses and business closures. Pictured: A closed shop in Sydney’s north in May
Motorists from the surrounding suburbs of Arncliffe, Bardwell Valley and Kingsgrove can expect to pay between $3.04 and $6.95 depending on the length of their trip.
Member for Macquarie Fields Anoulack Chantivong told Daily Mail Australia the toll was ‘completely unfair’.
‘Slugging a $6.95 each way toll at the worst possible economic time shows a real lack of understanding on the impact that a toll will have on people’s daily lives.’
‘A lot of people are being stood down or having their hours and wages reduced because of the economic circumstances.
‘This is just unfair and totally unsympathetic to the economic plight of so many people in southwest Sydney,’ he said.
Suburbs surrounding the M5 East motorway were revealed as some of the most heavily impacted areas in the coronavirus pandemic, according to an interactive map created by consulting firm Taylor Fry.
In a ranking of Sydney’s worst affected suburbs, both Arncliffe and Bardwell Valley placed in the 60-70 per cent of financial impact – with the regions hardest hit in 90-100 percentile range and those least impacted in the 0-10 per cent bracket.
Mascot also placed in the 70-80 per cent of the rankings reflecting lost income, unemployment and expenditure.
These areas have seen job losses, huge declines in spending, businesses closures and households struggling to pay the bills.
The M5 freeway (pictured) was previously free for motorists to use
The Member for Macquarie Fields called for the motorway to introduce a toll-free period to allow locals to overcome their economic circumstances (closed businesses pictured)
The southwest suburbs struggled even before the coronavirus pandemic began with Arncliffe ranking 330 and Mascot placing 520 in a report on Sydney’s liveable areas.
Census data also showed that a median weekly household income in Sydney is $2,099 but sits at just $1,549 in Beverly Hills.
Mr Chanthivong called for a toll-free period to be put in place during the coronavirus crisis.
‘We need to understand the plight of people’s financial and personal circumstances, the last thing they need is to be slugged more than $3000 a year on a toll they once used for free.
‘Now is not the time to hit people with a workers tax as they’re driving to and from work,’ he said.
A WestConnex spokesperson told Daily Mail Australia: ‘When the M8 opens, we expect the driving experience on the M5 East will dramatically improve, with travel time savings of around 30 minutes during peak hour.’
‘Transurban, WestConnex’s operator, has introduced a range of responses to help customers who have been impacted by COVID-19.
‘This includes providing up to three months of toll credits to people who are struggling financially… This has seen around 20,000 people receive an average of around $220 per person since the pandemic began,’ the spokesperson said.
A WestConnex spokesperson said drivers who were financially struggling during COVID-19 could claim toll credits. Pictured: Sydney city empty during the COVID-19 pandemic