By Matt Dennien
Brisbane City Council has no plans to change eligibility requirements for its Go Between Bridge toll credit scheme despite fewer than 1000 residents being granted the subsidy and others hitting unexpected impasses while trying.
Most of the 9000 vehicles that had used the nearby Victoria Bridge daily have re-routed to the William Jolly Bridge, with patronage on the Go Between remaining about 10,500 trips a day and sparking calls from the RACQ for better incentives and discounts for the “under-utilised asset”.
Transport and Main Roads Minister Mark Bailey has weighed in, calling for a loosening of the criteria to more renters and private vehicle owners.
The scheme was rolled out alongside the closure of nearby Victoria Bridge to general traffic in late January as part of the $1.2 billion Brisbane Metro project, to help residents south of the CBD with the potential increased cost of crossing the river.
Those in the 4101 postcode suburbs of Highgate Hill, South Brisbane and West End could be granted the $100 annual credit, which would be added to their Linkt account and reviewed each year for a maximum of four years. The council then pays this subsidy to administrator Transurban.
While 2016 census data showed about two-thirds of the 23,000 people who lived in the area rented, well above the Queensland and national averages of closer to 30 per cent, those applying for the scheme must have six months remaining on a tenancy to be eligible.
Others have discovered utes and vans were ineligible for the credit even if only used for personal travel.
One resident, Lucy Gabb, had applied for the scheme only to hit “brick walls” and be told in emails seen by Brisbane Times that her single-cab ute, along with dual-cab varieties and vans, were not included.
“It’s not that much of a big deal but it was just frustrating because I had to do all the legwork to find out,” she said. “If they had said straight away you weren’t eligible, I wouldn’t have applied.”
Others who tried to apply were unable to get access because of shorter-term and month-to-month rental agreements.
“One would hope they’d consider relaxing that particular criteria if the uptake is ... low,” said one renter on a month-to-month lease who asked to remain anonymous.
“The amount of people moving in and out of rental accommodation across 4101 must surely be not inconsiderable ... so tough luck if you’re one month in to your new [six-month] lease. How is that fair to those people?”
The council’s infrastructure committee chair, David McLachlan, said the scheme was developed “at the request of” the state government based on the advocacy of former South Brisbane MP Jackie Trad.
“The Go Between Bridge toll scheme’s terms and conditions meet the state’s requirements and there are no plans to change the existing scheme,” Cr McLachlan said.
“The scheme was intended to help local residents travelling in their private vehicles, and was not for business-related travel. All business vehicles are able to claim tolls as a tax-deductible expense.”
Cr McLachlan insisted passenger vans and utes used for private travel were eligible for the toll concession and said renters, who could provide documentation from their landlord or real estate agent, were encouraged to contact the council so a concession could be considered.
Mr Bailey said he would like to see the council “do the right thing” by residents and extend the scheme to more renters and vehicle owners.
“The community shouldn’t be disadvantaged by Brisbane Metro,” he said.
Cars usually incur a $3.29 toll while light commercial vehicles incur $4.94 to cross the 300-metre bridge — the most expensive toll road in the country by distance.
The number of vehicles using it is lower than traffic levels when it opened almost 11 years ago at a multimillion-dollar operating loss but was expected to have climbed to 21,000 this year.