Home Data Transurban proposes data undertaking to meet ACCC competition concerns
Rod Sims, ACCC chairman Rod Sims, ACCC chairman

Toll road operator Transurban has taken steps to address competition concerns by the regulator, the ACCC, over the proposed acquisition of the majority interest in the WestConnex motorway by the Sydney Transport Partners consortium it leads.

On Thursday, the ACCC announced it had commenced consultation on a proposed undertaking offered by Transurban ASX: TCL) to publish detailed toll traffic data for all toll roads in New South Wales in which it holds an interest.

In a statement issued by the ACCC it said that in its proposed undertaking, Transurban agrees to publish the toll traffic data – “data which is more detailed and accurate than data that is currently available or has been shared with the bidders for WestConnex”.

Transurban has also undertaken that it will publish 15-minute-interval toll gantry data each quarter, which includes vehicle count, vehicle classification (e.g. light vehicle, heavy vehicle) and direction of traffic flow.

WestConnex is a partially completed motorway development in Sydney, comprising 33 kms of interconnected motorways and road upgrades, and which will extend the M4 motorway from Parramatta to Sydney Airport and duplicate the M5 East corridor.

The ACCC released a statement of issues in May that raised preliminary competition concerns, including one related to Transurban potentially having an advantage in obtaining future toll road concessions because it has access to detailed traffic data from existing toll roads.

Transurban — or a Transurban-controlled entity — holds seven of the nine toll road concessions in NSW, including the M1, M2, M5 and M7 motorways.

ACCC chair Rod Sims said in the statement issued on Thursday that “some of the feedback from the industry has indicated that Transurban’s rivals may have trouble competing on an equal footing for future toll road concessions because they do not have the level of data that Transurban has”.

"Given the short timeframe to review the proposed acquisition, the ACCC has decided to release Transurban’s proposed undertaking for consultation before reaching concluded views on these issues," Sims said.

The ACCC said the data is proposed to be made available for the following toll roads – M2; Lane Cove Tunnel. Cross City Tunnel, M1, WestConnex itself, and “any other toll road in NSW in which Transurban gains an interest”.

The Commission says Transurban will also seek to publish data with the same level of detail for the M5, Westlink M7 and NorthConnex, subject to obtaining consent from its partners on those three roads, but if it is unable to obtain consent, it will publish a more aggregated set of data for those roads.

"The ACCC is still considering whether the undertaking is necessary and adequate to address any competition concerns," Sims said.

"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."

Sims said the ACCC understands that the NSW Government’s sale process for WestConnex is continuing.

The ACCC is not involved in that process and notes that the NSW Government has made no announcement about the selection of a preferred bidder.

Sims said the ACCC now seeks the view of market participants to assist its consideration of the proposed undertaking and whether it is likely to alleviate potential competition concerns.

The deadline for parties making submissions to the ACCC is 9 am on 15 August and the proposed decision date for the announcement of the ACCC’s final decision is 6 September.

 But the ACCC says it will make a decision earlier if it can.

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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham is a co-founder of iTWire and a 35-year veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).

 

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