Transurban offers to publish toll data to allay WestConnex competition concerns

The group’s access to detailed traffic information is at the core of the Australian watchdog’s concerns as it vies with IFM Investors to win approval for the project.

Australian toll road operator Transurban has offered to make detailed toll traffic data publicly available for all the roads it operates in New South Wales, as it seeks to allay competition concerns over its bid for WestConnex.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission announced today that Transurban had made the proposal and had started consulting with market participants on the offer.

Transurban has offered to publish 15-minute-interval toll gantry data every quarter, which includes vehicle count, vehicle classification (e.g. light vehicle or heavy vehicle) and direction of traffic flow. It would make data available for the M2 motorway, Lane Cove Tunnel, Cross City Tunnel, M1 motorway and WestConnex itself, as well as any other toll road in NSW in which Transurban gains an interest.

It will also aim to publish data with the same level of detail for the M5, Westlink M7 and NorthConnex toll roads, subject to obtaining consent from its partners on those three roads, the ACCC said. If Transurban is unable to obtain consent for those roads, it would instead publish a more aggregated set of data.

This information is “more detailed and accurate” than data currently available or has been shared with the bidders for WestConnex, the ACCC said.

The move is an attempt to head off one of the ACCC’s primary concerns over the Transurban-led bid for a 51 percent stake in Sydney Motorway Corporation, the organisation designated to build and operate WestConnex, the largest road construction project in Australia.

In May, the ACCC published a preliminary statement of issues regarding the competition, which stated that Transurban potentially would have an advantage in obtaining future toll road concessions if it won the WestConnex bid, because it has access to detailed traffic data from its other toll roads.

“The ACCC is still considering whether the [Transurban] undertaking is necessary and adequate to address any competition concerns. We have not formed a final view on the competitive impact of the proposed acquisition or whether the undertaking is capable of addressing any potential lessening of competition,” ACCC chairman Rod Sims said in a statement.

In July, the competition watchdog delayed its final decision on Transurban’s bid until 6 September, but the NSW Government declined to delay the bid deadline. As a result, the Transurban-led consortium submitted a conditional bid subject to ACCC approval, going head-to-head with a consortium led by IFM Investors.

The NSW Government has made no announcement about the selection of a preferred bidder and has given no indication on the timeline for an announcement.

The ACCC deadline for feedback on Transurban’s data-sharing proposal is 15 August.

Transurban did not respond to a request for comment.