The National Road Transport Association (NatRoad) questioned Transport for NSW back in August of this year to address our concerns regarding the mandatory use of the NorthConnex tunnel and the various issues this poses for drivers. We have only just now received a response, two weeks after the NorthConnex tunnel opened.
The controversial and long foreshadowed NorthConnex is a nine-kilometre twin tunnel linking the M1 Pacific Motorway at Wahroonga to the Hills M2 Motorway at West Pennant Hills in Sydney’s north. It is compulsory for most heavy vehicles to use this tunnel with no alternative non-tolled routes available.
It is our expectation that if tolled roads are introduced, fundamental principles of fairness require a non-tolled route to be available. This is not the case with NorthConnex, and until it is, we will continue to oppose the mandatory use of the tunnel.
The response from Transport for NSW regarding three main areas of concern: air quality and animal welfare when transporting livestock, enforcing the ban on trucks using Pennant Hills Road, and the lack of rest stops, are detailed below.
Transportation of Livestock:
NorthConnex met with industry members regarding their concerns over air quality when transporting livestock. Transport for NSW say that the tunnels have been built to meet strict air quality standards using state-of-the-art ventilation and tunnel design. While NorthConnex indicates that there are strict air quality requirements to ensure that air quality levels are appropriately managed, we would like to hear from members and others who now must use the tunnel when transporting livestock on what their personal experiences have been. NatRoad asked NorthConnex for documented consideration of animal welfare issues but received only a statement assuring us that their air quality standards are very strict, and they have no concerns regarding livestock transportation.
Enforcing Pennant Hills Road Compliance
NatRoad also pushed for a clearer explanation on what regulatory methods would be implemented to enforce the ban for trucks over 12.5m long or 2.8m clearance height using Pennant Hills Road. We now know that two gantry sites, one in Normanhurst and one in Beecroft/West Pennant Hills, will monitor trucks and issue a fine of $194 for any trucks using the road without a regulatory justification.
A truck exceeding 12.5m long or 2.8m clearance height is only permitted to use Pennant Hills Road if needing to make a pick up or delivery only accessible via Pennant Hills Road, transporting a placarded load of dangerous goods, or is a Class 1 heavy vehicle that exceeds 2.5m wide, 4.6m high or 25.0m long.
Trucks stopping to complete a pickup or delivery along Pennant Hills Road will not pass the two gantry sites with the flow of traffic and will not receive an infringement. Images taken by the gantry will be manually reviewed by the Transport for NSW Compliance team to ensure trucks meeting one of the other two exceptions are also not issued infringement notices. If you are issued a notice, please let us know.
Facilities and Re-Fuelling
Drivers using NorthConnex must still comply with the HVNL fatigue rules; however now they will be unable to utilise the numerous fuel, food, and rest stops along Pennant Hills Road.
We asked Transport for NSW for their advice on how members can use facilities along Pennant Hills Road without risking a fine, or at least recommend suitable alternatives but Transport for NSW did not adequately address this issue and instead suggested drivers use the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) online map to plan stops ahead of time.
NatRoad CEO Warren Clark said, “The circumstances surrounding the treatment of heavy vehicles relating to NorthConnex is shameful, unfair and needs to be urgently reconsidered.”
Transport for NSW has failed to address the lack of fuel, food, and rest stops for trucks using the tunnel and operators facing up to $23,011 per truck in tolls each year have been offered no option to reduce that financial strain.
NatRoad will continue to lobby the NSW Government on behalf of members and all affected operators and will push for an alternative non-tolled route to be made available.
If you would like to share your experience with the new NorthConnex tunnel, whether that involves delays, incidents, or your experience transporting livestock we would like to hear from you. Please contact us on 1800 272 144 or email us at [email protected].