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Harbour Bridge, Tunnel won’t go private

The Sydney Harbour Bridge, Harbour Tunnel or under-construction Western Harbour Tunnel will not be privatised, the NSW roads minister says.

Natalie Ward ruled out any government plans to privatise the infrastructure as tolls loom as a key state election battleground.

Ms Ward fronted a budget estimates hearing on Wednesday and was quizzed about government plans for the three major roads, amid increasing scrutiny of Sydney’s extensive toll road network, as cost of living pressures bite.

The rising cost of living across Sydney, including escalating road toll charges, are expected to be a headline issue at the March election.

The Greens’ Abigail Boyd asked Ms Ward if she would rule out cutting a deal with toll road operator Transurban on toll revenue from the Harbour Tunnel or the Harbour Bridge.

Transurban operates 10 roads in Sydney and has one of the remaining projects that makes up mega-project WestConnex, set for completion in 2023.

“We are absolutely not doing that and the scare campaign needs to stop,” Ms Ward said.

Ms Ward was then asked the same question about the Western Harbour Tunnel, a major project set to create a western bypass of the Sydney CBD.

“There are no plans to do so at this time, I think that’s ruling it out,” Ms Ward said.

Earlier, Labor’s Daniel Mookhey queried Ms Ward about what he said was a forecast 28 per cent jump in toll revenue in 2024/25.

“Can you give us your explanation as to why all of a sudden we’re expecting to collect this addition $50 million?” Mr Mookhey asked.

Ms Ward said the increase was due to the M6 – an under-construction motorway in southwest Sydney – being completed by that time.

“The M6 will come online, it’s a major infrastructure project in the south of Sydney … it’s anticipated that will be included,” she said.

Labor has pledged to use toll revenue from the Harbour Bridge and Tunnel to offset tolls on privately owned roads, if elected.

The government has announced it will provide quarterly rebates to frequent toll road users, with drivers eligible to receive up to $750 back each year.

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