Western Sydney motorists who drive to work in the city have either had a quick run - or a significantly slower one - this week.
The M4 toll kicked in on Tuesday for the first time since 2010, leaving the motorway a “ghost town” between Parramatta and Homebush.
But drivers avoiding the tolls by using Parramatta Road experienced east-bound traffic that was 20 per cent heavier than normal.
Many drivers from the west opted to exit the motorway at Church Street, Parramatta, just before the first toll gate.
Results released on Monday from a survey by Western Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils showed 70 per cent of respondents felt they couldn’t afford the $4.56 one-way trip.
WestConnex Minister Stuart Ayres has stared down criticism of the toll, saying it was necessary to fund all stages of the project.
“The M4 needs to be widened and extended to link up with City West Link and WestConnex is doing this,” he said.
“Labor has ignored this challenge for 20 years. The government is simply doing what Labor couldn't do.”
Blacktown mayor Stephen Bali said motorists were paying for a road that “should still be free”.
“Toll company profits are getting a higher priority than public transport planning,” he said.
“The part of Sydney that is most poorly served by public transport is being penalised for having to drive to work.”
Cr Bali said being forced to fork out $2000 per year is “blatantly unfair”. He suggested the state government look at capping prices based on performance, rather than distance traveled.
Speaking in Federal Parliament, Chifley MP Ed Husic blasted the “shameless greed” of toll company Transurban, which could be in line to take control of WestConnex.
“Drivers will have to pay $45.60 each week in tolls if they drive to and from work,” he said.
“That’s a huge amount of money for people in western Sydney; this in a climate where wages growth is at an all-time low.”
State Labor roads spokeswoman Jodi McKay on Tuesday promised the opposition would continue fighting the toll until the 2019 election.
Labor has called on the Berejiklian government to delay selling off WestConnex until voters can have their say.
Ms McKay said future governments would be locked into keeping the toll should the project be sold, with prices set to increase every year until at least 2060.
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