Queensland’s massive toll road debt revealed
ONE in every six dollars in overdue State Government fines is owed by motorists who have defaulted on toll road debts.
The Government says the rate of defaulting on toll debts is actually decreasing, but Treasury confirmed that $204 million of about $1.2 billion sitting in the State Penalties Enforcement Register is related to toll debt.
The issue is sure to be raised at a parliamentary inquiry into the state's network of toll roads, which kicks off tomorrow with a public hearing.
The inquiry will look at toll pricing and incentive options, operation of the existing complaint process, and the existing relationship between the Tolling Customer Ombudsman and the Queensland Ombudsman. It will report back by September 13.
State Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington - who pushed the Government to launch the inquiry after becoming concerned about poor patronage and the level of complaints against toll operator Transurban - said expensive tolls had contributed to the massive SPER debts.
"In the past three years, Transurban's Queensland business has received 48 per cent of all the complaints made to the National Toll Ombudsman, whose office is financed by Transurban," she said.
"I've also been shocked by the stories that surfaced in the media after the LNP called for this inquiry.
"It seems video-matching fees, invoice charges and administrative fees can turn one missed toll into a demand for hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars."
Unpaid tolls are referred to the State Government or Brisbane City Council only after the operator has exhausted all avenues for recovering the debt.
The operator writes off the debt and does not receive any money recovered by the Government or council, both of which can issue infringement notices against defaulting customers. When those fines become overdue, they are referred to SPER for collection.
Transport Minister Mark Bailey said a new tolling enforcement and compliance regime had resulted in SPER referrals from unpaid tolls dropping from 55,000 to 8000 a month.
He said the total annual value of SPER referrals from toll defaulters had fallen from $150 million to $22 million.
Transurban Queensland Group Executive Sue Johnson said the toll network had recorded a 16 per cent rise in patronage since the company started operating the roads four years ago.
"We have invested $70 million into making things easier for our customers, from a better website to two new smartphone apps, as well as lowered fees. And we've provided more help for people in financial hardship," she said.