1st EDITION: 31/8/2016 - @TheScandalAU - Contribute
FIRST EDITION: 31 August 2016 - @TheScandalAU - Contribute

A Case for a Senate Inquiry

Australian toll road operator exposé

Secret Deals, Influenced Government, Over $1 Billion in Penalties, Neighbourhoods Destroyed, Environmental Impact, Tens of Thousands Affected and a Plan to Toll All Roads.

Transurban: Political Donations Comic
Michael Fraser and Maddison Johnstone

Suicide is a word that appears all too often when speaking with toll road users.

Australian motorists have over $1 billion in outstanding toll penalties. Victorians alone owe $687 Million, which is 2.7 times that of road safety camera infringement (speed, red light and unregistered vehicles) offences combined.

When, in just over 12 months, our advocacy office received thousands of toll road complaints through our website and hundreds of calls, we knew there was a serious problem. Upset, angry and confused motorists from all walks of life were having problems with toll road operator Transurban.

After analysing the data, it was found that their complaints fit into a whopping 56 complaint categories, with the top three being: 1. Outrageous Fees & Fines, 2. Escalated to State Infringement, and 3. Faulty E-Tag.

In January 2016, our advocacy office also analysed complainant data from motorists using Transurban's Queensland toll roads, which revealed that 24% claim they have penalty fees over $5,000, 14% claim they have penalty fees over $10,000, and 14% claim they have lost their licence as a result.

What is particularly concerning about these issues is that many of the fees and infringements came about due to system errors and lack of communication from Transurban, or innocent customer oversights that even the most diligent motorist can make.

They won't admit they have mistakes in their system.Transurban Whistleblower

During numerous lengthy discussions with our Transurban whistleblower, he detailed a range of problems that appear to be systemic. When The Scandal asked the whistleblower if admitting to those problems would lead to huge legal action against Transurban, he replied "yes".

Transurban began in Victoria

Transurban's longest-serving government arrangement is Melbourne's CityLink, where they entered a Public-Private Partnership (PPP) in 1995. The whole arrangement stirred public controversy with the government refusing to release information pertaining to public interest. Thus began Transurban's venture into PPPs and secret deals.

With impressive government influence and a set of politically active employees, they have mastered political negotiations – which is most evident in their recent unsolicited bid for the Western Distributor, a hugely unpopular road proposal that is set to cost $5.5 billion. The negotiation was formulated as a 'rescue package' to save Premier Daniel Andrews, who backed out of the bungled East-West Link project after much public debate and community unrest.

Keep in mind that this is a private company that has already broken the CityLink Concession Deed on one occasion, costing their customers $1.3 million. Not only was Transurban not punished for breaking the concession deed, they were also not required to pay back the money that could be argued was stolen from their customers. To add insult to injury, the Victorian Government went from suggesting they return the overcharged fees, to 'resolving' the dispute by agreeing that the administration fee no longer had to be cost-based ($1.20) and that it should be set at a level which acts as a deterrent for road users who fail to carry their e-tags ($12.13).

Given Transurban's long list of former government employees, The Scandal asked Premier Daniel Andrews, Treasurer Tim Pallas and Minister Luke Donnellan if Transurban had ever approached them with an offer to work for or advise Transurban once they left office. A government spokesperson responded with 'No'. Only time will tell.

Sydney, New South Wales under attack from WestConnex

As Sydney's congestion woes continue, the New South Wales Government's WestConnex solution is a controversial issue. The WestConnex project is now under construction and will eventually connect up two of Sydney's main motorways, the M4 in western Sydney and the M5 in south-western Sydney.

Many of those against the WestConnex project say it will not ease traffic congestion, and alarmingly, there are instances of the Baird Government breaking away from recommendations and strict environmental processes. As a result, the heritage and environmental consequences of the WestConnex project are very real, and neighbourhoods are being destroyed with forced home acquisitions.

The WestConnex Action Group campaign against the new project consists of pertinent questions and raises valid and viable concerns about process and due diligence. However, the Sydney Morning Herald recently reported that community groups were least likely to gain access to information through Right To Information.

SMH also reported that under the Baird Government, the Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) saw a doubling of the "secrecy" excuse to block public access to documents, applying it in 514 cases. It was also discovered that the private sector was less likely to receive a "secrecy" excuse to block their access to government documents, and were more likely than any other group to gain access.

And who in the private sector is in the running to operate WestConnex once it has been built? No doubt, one very interested party is Transurban. Infrastructure NSW was the body charged with delivering the WestConnex project. Shortly after the project was announced, then Chairman Nick Greiner stepped down and is currently a Transurban Adviser. Interestingly, Nick Greiner is also a former NSW Premier.

The Scandal asked Premier Baird, Treasurer Gladys Berejiklian and Minister Duncan Gay if they had approached or been approached by Transurban to discuss an offer to work for or advise their company. They did not respond.

Queenslanders are being ripped off

Since Transurban began operating in Brisbane, toll road customers have experienced poor practices, often being left hundreds or thousands of dollars out of pocket.

A Transurban whistleblower spoke to The Scandal about unethical practices and their questionable morals that involved the company gouging customers and cheating the Queensland Government.

The 'Demerit Point' system is part of Transurban's Road Franchise Agreement with the Queensland Government. The system involves monetary penalties to be paid to the Queensland Government.

The whistleblower recalled a time when Transurban explained away the large number of complaints captured by the Manila call centre as technical errors, in a bid to escape financial penalty.

This would, of course, suggest a significant breach in their contractual agreement with the Queensland Government.

General Manager Queensland Wes Ballantine was asked about the allegations put forward by the whistleblower, but he did not respond.

And if you've ever wondered how Transurban can charge excessive administration fees ($23.46 per unpaid toll), the whistleblower alleged it is likely to be because they use a middleman company to issue toll invoices. In the case of go via, that middleman company is Salmat.

Toll Invoices just keep coming through, it's fees on fees on fees. It's unbelievable.Transurban Whistleblower

Indeed, the company best known for letterbox drops is involved in the printing and issuing of toll invoice fees.

Salmat Corporate Communications Senior Manager Shane McClelland was contacted for comment about Salmat's involvement in the issuing of Transurban's toll fees and notices. Mr McClelland did not respond.

The whistleblower conceded that Transurban's fees were excessive.

"Toll Invoices just keep coming through, it's fees on fees on fees. It's unbelievable," he said.

And it is not uncommon for a customer to receive tens or sometimes over one hundred invoices in one envelope, (like Troy Johnson - see video). Transurban staff will often say, we have an angry customer on the phone, they just got a "tree" in the mail.

When speaking of Brisbane City Council roads operated by go via, the whistleblower said a customer would always receive a Penalty Infringement Notice (PIN) if they do not pay a toll.

"They [Brisbane City Council] are meticulous and religious in setting a PIN, sending a PIN out to the customer," he said.

However, this is not the case with Queensland Government roads. If five toll points are driven through, one PIN will be issued, but the other four may or may not be issued.

The whistleblower also said the Logan Motorway toll gantry by BP Larapinta was malfunctioning, and customers with personalised plates were overcharged. The whistleblower said that Transurban was aware of the issue but would not inform their customers, instead placing the responsibility on the customer to somehow know.

In the whistleblower's words, Transurban "are a strange company, they don't believe they've got problems." Yet clearly they are aware of them.

Given the number of allegations made by the whistleblower we have decided to write a follow up piece at a later date.

Transurban's plan to toll all roads

Transurban Comic: Scott Charlton gets cheeky with Uber.

Transurban's CEO Scott Charlton has superimposed himself into a debate, that he is perhaps the impetus for, about the Government's need to move away from charging fuel excise, and instead toward a more 'fair' user-pay system.

How is it fair that an Uber driver doing 15 trips a day in an electric vehicle pays the same amount in registration as a pensioner who does 15 trips a year? And when it comes to their contribution to fuel excise the uber driver with an electric vehicle pays nothing at all.Scott Charlton

In June 2016, Mr Charlton spoke at The Australian Financial Review's National Infrastructure Summit where he took a cheeky swing at Uber drivers in an attempt to validate his argument to move to a user-pay model.

"Fuel excise is rapidly diminishing as we move to fuel efficient and electric cars," Mr Charlton said.

"How is it fair that an Uber driver doing 15 trips a day in an electric vehicle pays the same amount in registration as a pensioner who does 15 trips a year? And when it comes to their contribution to fuel excise the uber driver with an electric vehicle pays nothing at all."

Mr Charlton makes a fair point as he strongly advocates for changes in Government policy, especially when there is potential for Transurban to increase its revenue stream. However, when questioned about reducing toll fees, his go-go-government advocate button stops working.

"We are just administering what the state governments set up," Mr Charlton told the Sydney Morning Herald, demonstrating his apathy towards toll fee reductions.

With Transurban tolling less than 200 kilometres of the 800,000 plus kilometres of Australia's national road network, it raises the question as to why Mr Charlton is taking every opportunity to lobby for a user-pay system. Is he just a good Samaritan?

Perhaps the answer lies in Transurban's 2016 Investor Presentation under the heading 'Strategy' - "To be the partner of choice with governments providing effective and innovative urban road infrastructure utilising core capabilities".

Presumably, a user-pay model will require a 'partner of choice' to administer the billing for a user-pay model, and when it comes time for the government to make such decisions, as if by serendipity Mr Charlton will be there to graciously accept a contract awarded to Transurban.

If we are to move to a user-pay model, this will be no small step, and just like all toll road projects, the cost and inconvenience of rubber stamping rushed policy and government incompetence will be passed on to the public with immense human cost.

When reading Transurban's 9 March 2016 submission to the Standing Committee on Infrastructure, Transport and Cities, you will note that Transurban considers that they have more similarities with energy, telco, and water, than public goods, such as schools. Then, under the heading 'A sustainable funding solution', it talks about the "development of an appropriate operating model that sees government as the regulator and policy setter and the private sector as operator and owner, which is the structure of most of the utility industries."

Transurban are already conducting a road usage study, trialling various user pay models including "a distance-based per-kilometre charge, price per trip or charge to access the road network, and a flat-rate cost based on expected road usage."

They are using every opportunity to highlight the shortfall in road funding due to a number of factors, with a primary one being that hybrid and fully electric cars are not paying the fuel excise.

So it would be safe to say that the overall cost of driving will go up with a user-pay model to cover the significant shortfall in road funding.

It will be likely that Transurban will succeed in winning a contract in exchange for generous fees - that motorists will have to pay - to administer the billing for a user-pay model for not just their roads, but those of any other toll operator in Australia - that is if they haven't bought them all out.

A Transurban user study in Melbourne was covered by The Age in May 2016, and if the greater detail in the user-pay plans is anything to go by, motorists are likely to end up with plans similar to those of the first phone plans that came with a crippling bill-shock if you exceeded your cap.

Why should this concern you? Well firstly, if you received a surprise $900 Telstra bill (when it is normally $100) because you exceeded your cap by one hour while talking to Nana - and you didn't pay it - about the worst that could happen would be a suspension in services until paid.

In the case of Transurban, service suspension will be the least of your problems if you don't pay on time. Their partner, being the various State governments, will write legislation which ensures that it is an offence not to pay, and each offence will attract over-the-top penalties that range from a $170 Penalty Infringement Notice (PIN), through to vehicle seizures and possibly even imprisonment.

Transurban currently only operate 13 toll roads in Australia, which covers less than 200 kilometres of road. Apart from the thousands of customers complaining to our advocacy office, there is currently over $1 billion - that's B for Billion - in outstanding toll infringements owing in Australia. The large majority of those outstanding infringements were issued to motorists that traveled on Transurban toll roads.

With a long line of customers claiming they were penalised due to Transurban error, and a whistleblower indicating systemic problems, the thought of them tolling roads on a much larger scale is surely concerning.

If you were upset by having to supply your name in this year's Census, then you won't like this. Transurban propose that user-pay customers are tracked using a GPS tracker fitted to your vehicle. See slide 14 of their 2016 Investor Presentation.

In their trial the GPS trackers were located under the steering wheel. So how will this work in a real world environment? If they are tolling all roads it will be unlikely that they will install toll gantries everywhere. If this is the case, that means a motorist would be able to remove the device from their vehicle and drive around for free.

Transurban would have already considered this, so no doubt they will ask their State Government partners to write legislation making it compulsory to have a GPS tracker in your vehicle and an offence to remove the device.

That means Transurban will be tracking your every move, even when you are driving on a road that is not yet a user-pay road, or when your car is in the garage, and even when you sneak off late at night to purchase a yummy doughnut from an exploited 7-Eleven worker.

A Transurban whistleblower has alleged that Transurban have a secret deal with Salmat to issue toll notices in exchange for a generous fee that is passed on to the customer. Salmat are an Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) listed company and describe themselves as 'a marketing services business'. The Scandal contacted Salmat for comment. They did not respond.

When you enter a toll road you automatically agree to their Terms and Conditions. In those terms, you will find that by using their services, you agree for them to share your information with [unnamed] third parties, the State, the courts and law enforcement.

You can bet your bottom dollar that all your tracked movements will be shared with companies such as Salmat - most likely sold - and the State and law enforcement will know all your movements. Sure you might not be doing anything wrong, but I am sure you can think of better people to share your information with than a profit hungry toll company.

Hiding the public from Public-Private Partnerships

Fair criticism of Transurban's Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) is hindered heavily when cherry-picked information or carefully crafted spin is all that the public is entitled to know. Commercial interests always take precedence over the public interest and the need for transparency.

Transurban's first PPP contract was for Melbourne's CityLink infrastructure project in 1995. Despite being a PPP, there was a lack of information available to the public about details of the costings and the allocation of risk.

The public was further prohibited from viewing details of the agreement when the Freedom of Information Act (now Right to Information) did not apply to CityLink, as it was deemed a 'special project'. The supporting legislation also meant due process requirements were overruled.

Fast-forward to 2016, and it appears the public are still restricted from details of Transurban's PPPs. Take for instance, Transurban's secret new agreement with the Queensland Government.

In Estimates on July 28 2016, Labor MP Jo-Ann Miller asked Transport and Main Roads Minister Mark Bailey about the new agreement. After briefly reading Transurban's press release, Mr Bailey proceeded to blame the previous government for toll road users finding themselves in substantial debt.

"Transurban can now work more closely with customers to clear unpaid tolls before they are referred to the state enforcement body with its higher fees and penalties," Mr Bailey said.

"I can confirm that it appears that the member for Indooroopilly, when he was the minister for transport, approved the issuing of penalty infringement notices for all tolling debts for Transport and Main Roads, which led to them being referred to SPER by the Department of Transport and Main Roads."

When contacted for comment, Member for Indooroopilly Scott Emerson said arrangements requiring all unpaid tolls be referred to the State Government for further compliance were executed under the Bligh Government, while Annastacia Palaszczuk was Transport Minister.

"Any increase in referrals were a clearing of a backlog that already existed under Labor's arrangements," Mr Emerson said.

In that same Estimates hearing, Department of Transport and Main Roads (DTMR) Director-General Neil Scales was confused about the new agreement. Mr Scales first said it was "not a secret", but backtracked when informed by Transurban that it was "commercial".

It is concerning that as the Head of DTMR, Mr Scales is not conversant in recent, relevant and controversial agreements. This could perhaps be reflective of lazy government, or otherwise represents their lack of interest in fixing a broken system.

Professor Graeme Hodge

Prof. Graeme Hodge

Either way, PPPs enable governments to "outsource their brains", according to Professor Graeme Hodge.

The Monash University professor has written several academic articles about PPPs, and thinks it's "crazy" for governments to expect the private sector to be doing the hard work on how to meet the public interest.

"The real question is whether or not you allow Transurban to be as influential as it is currently - and I would say as secret as it is currently - when it does deals," Professor Hodge said.

"It all comes down to what deal has government done in your name as a citizen."

It all comes down to what deal has government done in your name as a citizen.Professor Graeme Hodge

While doors remain firmly shut to the public, politically astute Transurban has unfettered access, to the point where governments are accepting unsolicited bids and controversially negotiating contract extensions.

In the case of Victoria's bungled East-West Link, Transurban swooped in with an unsolicited proposal and a promise to fix the political mess the government was in. The proposal for the Western Distributor would see an apparent windfall for Transurban, where a contract extension would be granted by 10 years.

Of course, the negotiations between Transurban and the Victorian Government for the Western Distributor are mired in controversy but are hidden to the public.

As PPPs are politically successful, government has limited appetite to release information, and are particularly fearful of public scrutiny. While PPPs have long been a contentious issue in the political world and the wider community, they remain an attractive arrangement for the government of the day.

Governments should be creating projects that are the most worthwhile to the public, but while the lack of transparency continues in PPP arrangements, government will continue to favour projects that allow private businesses to increase their profits.

The need to establish an official Tolling Ombudsman service

As the toll road industry is fraught with a myriad of complaints, it is no wonder implementing an Ombudsman service was necessary to manage the arbitration process.

However, the implementation of the Tolling Customer Ombudsman (TCO) service and the legitimacy of its current operation have raised concerns, and further points to a problematic system in need of review.

TCO Michael Arnold has been the lead Ombudsman of the service since it's inception in 2004. Over the past 12 years, Mr Arnold did not believe it "appropriate or necessary" to have the TCO become a member of the Australia New Zealand Ombudsman Association (ANZOA), which is Australia’s peak body of Ombudsmen.

"The existing ombudsman [of ANZOA] were in the main, either statutory bodies or industry dispute resolution bodies for companies in the financial sector with different corporate structures from the TCO," Mr Arnold said.

In a publication written by ANZOA, they reference concern about "Ombudsman" bodies that do not conform to the accepted model and are inappropriately described as an Ombudsman office.

"Our view is that a body should not be described as an Ombudsman unless it complies with six essential criteria addressing independence, jurisdiction, powers, accessibility, procedural fairness and accountability," the policy statement reads.

As the TCO is not responsible to an independent board of industry and consumer representatives and Mr Arnold said the TCO is "not a not-for-profit" (as it operates under Lorimax Pty Ltd – a business that Mr Arnold is a director of), it appears the TCO would not meet Independence and Accountability criteria.

If Australia's peak body of Ombudsmen would not describe the TCO as a legitimate Ombudsman, how can toll road customers be expected to blindly trust this service for a fair outcome?

Further to missing key criteria of ANZOA's policy statement, the implementation and history of the TCO raise pertinent questions about the agenda behind the TCO service and its independence.

Mr Arnold told The Scandal that toll road operators choose to become part of the TCO system, perhaps a suggestion that there is no hidden agenda.

"It should be emphasized that all of these toll operators became part of the TCO system when there was no regulatory obligation to do so," Mr Arnold said.

However, according to the TCO's September 2012 - February 2013 Review, the TCO came to fruition as a result of Transurban's spokesperson Jean Ker Walsh, who was a "driving force" in its establishment. Ms Walsh also previously worked as a spin-doctor for a former Victorian Premier.

It would appear that although Mr Arnold is correct in saying there is no regulatory obligation for Transurban to become a member of the TCO system, Transurban was actually the creator of the TCO system.

The agenda behind creating the TCO service is clear, given it was 'driven' by someone whose job it is to be concerned with media and public image, rather than with disaffected customers experiencing poor service and suffering at the hands of the toll road operator.

Add to this that the TCO website is owned by Transurban, it is easy to cast doubt over Mr Arnold's claims of independence. Transurban is listed as the Domain Registrant, while the Registrant is Kirsten Llewellyn, formerly Transurban's senior legal counsel and currently their assistant company secretary.

In addressing this issue, Mr Arnold said the TCO website was being transitioned to the TCO – eight years after it was registered - and maintained he is independent of Transurban.

One would think if the TCO was truly independent of Transurban, their publications might provide more critical discussion and informative data. In fact, the TCO's six-monthly reviews provide minimal detail that is hard to follow and understand.

Mr Arnold said the TCO had a "counterbalancing process" where issues are discussed in the six-monthly reviews, so that toll road customers, operators and State Governments were aware of the issues.

Albeit this 'discussion' is pale in comparison to other Ombudsman reports in similar industries, it is important that stakeholders are at least informed of issues.

However, it is even more critical that any and all data that could point toward identifying the overarching cause of the problem be made publicly available. And it would seem that the TCO does not publish semantic and critical data on toll road complaints to ensure stakeholders are able to identify the root of the problem.

When asked whether the go via network in Queensland received more complaints since being acquired by Transurban, Mr Arnold said, "I have not distilled the complaints in respect to go via to determine if they are in relation to recent events or they are legacies from the time before it was acquired by Transurban."

However, an industry whistleblower told The Scandal that complaints from customers substantially increased when acquired by Transurban.

The operation of the TCO service is also quite bizarre. The TCO does not have a dedicated fax machine, and instead uses the one at the Hawthorn Post Office.

Mr Arnold said this was because the vast majority of complaints were received by email. Perhaps a redundant point, given that a staff member was still required to check the post office every day for faxes.

If a customer wishes to call the TCO, a 1800 number is supplied but operating hours are not referenced on the website. The TCO also does not publish an office address online and when asked for it by customers, does not usually provide it.

"Appointments can be made in the States of Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland, if it is found any toll road customer cannot lodge a complaint online, by email or fax or by way of telephone. There has never been such an instance to date," Mr Arnold said.

One of the main issues in relation to disputes about tolls and fees in in [sic] Queensland lay in the escalation process of unpaid tolls to the Department of Transport and subsequently SPER [State Penalties Enforcement Registry] that was required by Queensland legislation.Michael Arnold

The TCO is also restricted in its power and abilities. A big hindrance is the inability to interfere in State escalation, despite it being a top complaint by toll road users.

"One of the main issues in relation to disputes about tolls and fees in in [sic] Queensland lay in the escalation process of unpaid tolls to the Department of Transport and subsequently SPER [State Penalties Enforcement Registry] that was required by Queensland legislation," Mr Arnold said.

A flawed Ombudsman service suits the State, and this reflects their lack of interest in an overhaul of the entire tolling system. A regulated Ombudsman with powers to pause unpaid toll escalation could see dramatic reductions in state revenue.

Throughout this investigation, toll road customers have referred to Mr Arnold's communication as incoherent with bad grammar or confusing punctuation. This also raises questions over Mr Arnold’s competence in performing the role of the Ombudsman.

Mr Arnold mistakenly attached a bank statement of Lorimax Pty Ltd to an email response to The Scandal. Earlier, a person unknown to Mr Arnold was copied in on an email. Throughout the entire communication, there were contradictory statements made as a result of omitting crucial words, and bad grammar made it difficult to comprehend some sentences.

The Scandal appreciates Mr Arnold's engagement in answering the questions, and perhaps it's indicative of a service that is understaffed, but given thousands of toll road customers rely on Mr Arnold to mediate their complaint, a review into the TCO's practices and abilities needs to be conducted.

Why we need a Senate Inquiry into the entire tolling industry

One thing we must never forget when listening to any message toll operators deliver; their primary existence and function is to make a profit for the shareholders. When they donate $3,000 to the local recreational centre and release a media statement about it, they are really hoping to distract you from the beautiful park and heritage listed homes being bulldozed in the next neighbourhood. Clearly, toll operators like Transurban have done a great job of convincing weak members from the major parties that they are going to do something great for the community, but it is about time that we the Australian people take a stand against these practices.

You only have to read one of Transurban's Investor Presentations to see that perhaps even they believe their own spin. The reports are full of rainbows and sunshine. Not even customer complaint data can be found in their Sustainability Reports anymore, and good luck finding the category for administration fee revenue (Fee revenue), because that has now been hidden in Toll revenue. It appears we asked too many questions about profiting from fees, so they simply hid them from their reports as of this year.

With carefully timed political donations to both Liberal and Labor, along with Transurban CEO Scott Charlton chumming it up on the Board of Roads Australia with Heads of Government departments in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland, it is no surprise that things just seem to go in favour of Transurban. Of course they are going to make record profits with such a setup, and the reason our various state governments - who are meant to represent us, the people - enter into commercial-in-confidence agreements with toll operators, is because they know you and I would be outraged if we saw what was in them.

With Secret Deals, Influence in Government, Over $1 Billion in Penalties, Neighbourhoods Destroyed, Environmental Impact, Tens of Thousands Affected and a Plan to Toll All Roads, we think it's about time for a Federal Senate Inquiry into the Tolling Industry in Australia and the impact on society. The next part is up to you to ask for it.

Do you know more? Contact us.

5 things you didn't know about Transurban

  • 1

    Illegal Political Donations

    In 2008 the Washington Post wrote that Transurban gave $172k to 90 campaigns in Virginia USA over 3 years. They admitted to making illegal donations and subsequently asked the politicians to return the money. Transurban currently operate 2 toll roads in Virginia.

  • 2

    26,000 Lawsuits Filed Against US Drivers in 2014

    Fox 5 writes that Transurban filed 26,000 lawsuits against drivers in 2014 alone. Transurban lost cases for exceeding the statute of limitations, and have been caught using "non-lawyers" to represent them. A judge ruled "non-lawyers" could not and cannot represent Transurban, however they still engage them to negotiate court settlements.

  • 3

    Tolling 'Ombudsman' Website Owned by Transurban

    The 'independent' Tolling Customer Ombudsman (TCO) website is owned by Transurban. Transurban is listed as the Domain Registrant, while the Registrant is Kirsten Llewellyn, formerly Transurban's senior legal counsel and currently their assistant company secretary.

  • 4

    Transurban CEO on Board of Roads Australia

    Scott Charlton sits on the Board of Roads Australia - the peak body of road transport stakeholders. Joining him are the heads of Government departments - John Merritt (VicRoads), Peter Duncan (Roads and Maritime Service), and Neil Scales (Department of Transport and Main Roads).

  • 5

    Transurban breaches concession deed

    CityLink overcharged customers by $1.3 million by raising the administration fee before receiving approval from the Victorian Government. Despite breaching the concession deed, the State agreed with CityLink that customers would not be refunded overcharged fees. Could it be state-approved robbery?

Top 8 toll complaints

  • 1.

    Outrageous Fees & Fines

  • 2.

    Escalated to State Infringement

  • 3.

    Faulty E-Tag

  • 4.

    Toll Notices Not Received

  • 5.

    Poor Customer Service & Long Waits

  • 6.

    Conflicting Stories From Toll Operator

  • 7.

    Phone/Online Payment: Wouldn't Process, or Didn't Show

  • 8.

    Toll Operator Promised Call Back. Never Called Back

Fun facts

Did you know?

  • 1.

    In almost all cases, State Gazetted toll road charges and fees are the maximum that Transurban can charge, but they are not required to charge the maximum. Our Transurban Whistleblower says "They always charge the maximum".

  • 2.

    According to slide 55 in Transurban's 2016 Investor Presentation, less than 2% of transactions escalate to the infringement process. With over 1.8 million transactions daily there could potentially be as many as 36,000 infringements issued per day.

Turnbull and Shorten

The Federal Government must not be given the option to escape responsibility for their involvement in infrastructure arrangements or for private companies holding undue power over government.

Yet it would appear this is an option they are leaving wide open should they feel the need to escape. The Scandal asked Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull several questions about Transurban practices and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Scott Charlton's relationship with government.

The response provided by a spokesperson from the Prime Minister's office was "We won't be commenting – this is a matter for the relevant minister and State Governments."

The Scandal was confused as to why the Prime Minister's office would direct us to State Governments with questions about federal matters.

Perhaps the Turnbull household has a case of amnesia, as his wife, the Chief Commissioner of the Greater Sydney Commission, Lucy Turnbull caused significant outrage when she spoke of being "unaware" of the destruction of heritage houses for the WestConnex motorway - when she ought to have known. It appears Prime Minister Turnbull is unaware that federal funding is going toward state road infrastructure projects, despite being widely published.

Further, Mr Charlton has also been publicly referenced as 'boasting' of having "frank discussions" with Federal Governments. Prime Minister Turnbull was asked about Mr Charlton's comments, and it leaves one scratching their head at the idea that State Governments would somehow be better positioned to provide comment on this matter.

We jumped the fence and asked the Opposition Leader some questions.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has been particularly vocal in campaigning for a Royal Commission into the banking industry.

The Scandal informed Mr Shorten that a large percentage of Transurban employees and stakeholders were former bankers and an in-depth analysis revealed incredible bank influence. Given this and that Australia has enough toll penalty debt for every man, woman and child to owe about $40, Mr Shorten was asked if he supported the tolling industry by not speaking out against it.

Mr Shorten did not respond, perhaps because quite a few members of his party appear to have strong relationships with Transurban.

Mr Shorten was also asked about his dealings with Mr Charlton, and no response was given.

Transurban make political donations to both Liberal and Labor, and this has raised some concern with the other parties.