CityLink operator Transurban says it will explore overhauling pricing — which could involve upping peak hour tolls — a day after it shut down Melbourne's two busiest road tunnels due to a computer malfunction.
Melbourne's CityLink tunnel network was forced to close early yesterday morning, causing the average 120,000 vehicles that use the roads everyday to be re-routed into city gridlock.
Speaking at the company's annual general meeting this morning, Transurban chairman Lindsay Maxsted said he regretted the closure, but defended the company's overall performance.
"Yesterday's tunnel outage was completely unacceptable for all concerned. However, your board believes yesterday's events are a truly exceptional circumstance — the first such event in 13 years of operations."
He told shareholders that "more efficient" pricing models were a way of addressing the effects of traffic congestion.
"The cost of congestion to the Australian economy alone is expected to be about $20 billion by 2020," he said.
"More efficient network pricing models may be [a] potential option to consider."
He said new pricing models would be "controversial for the road network" but that the "time is quickly coming where we must face concepts such as distance-based tolls, peak hour pricing or demand pricing."
"Tolling could include off-peak discounts as much as peak period increases."
The meeting comes at an unfortunate time for Transurban, which — on top of yesterday's meltdown — faced some concern from shareholders over generous executive salaries at its annual general meeting this morning.
Former chief executive Chris Lynch, who stepped down in July, received a total remuneration package of $7.36 million in the 2011-12 financial year - up from $6.75 million the year before, according to the company's full-year reports.
Australian Shareholders' Association chief executive Vas Kolesnikoff said that the salary was exceptionally large given the company's performance.
"Seven million is a large amount of money for collecting tolls," he said.