A SPEED-LIMIT reduction of 10km/h on one of Newcastle’s main arterial roads has netted the NSW government almost a million dollars more in fines revenue from two speed cameras alone in six months.
Data obtained by the Newcastle Herald, which the state’s police and finance minsters avoided providing to Wallsend MP Sonia Hornery, shows the staggering revenue windfall.
The speed limit on Thomas Street and Newcastle/Griffiths Road, which stretches from Wallsend to Hamilton, was reduced from 70km/h to 60km/h on March 11.
The reduction, made by Roads and Maritime Services in consultation with Newcastle council and NSW Police, was a measure taken after an analysis of collisions and traffic factors on the road.
But the outcome of the reduction can now be revealed with data from the red-light speed cameras at Thomas Street, Wallsend and Griffiths Road, Lambton.
The monthly data obtained by the Herald from Revenue NSW shows in the six months after the March reduction, April to September, the two cameras recorded 6193 speeding offences worth $1,188,205 in revenue.
It was a 544 per cent increase on the 961 offences recorded in the same period in 2017, which was worth $208,890 in revenue.
Ms Hornery had recently accused the government of failing to come clean on the amount of fines issued on the road. She had requested the number of infringements handed out for the six months prior to the speed limit change on March 11 and the six months after.
But that figure is slightly askew, given warning signs were in place on the road during February and March.
In February, the Griffiths Road camera recorded only 16 speeding offences for a revenue collect of $6693 – the lowest month in five years, likely due to visual message boards displaying warnings of the upcoming change.
Broken down to monthly figures at individual cameras and compared to the previous year, the data shows the growing windfall for the government and cost to unassuming motorists not yet used to the change.
In April, following the March speed-limit reduction, the Griffiths Road camera recorded 726 offences worth $121,789, up from 114 ($25,129) in April, 2017.
This increased to 1384 offences in May – the most penalised month at 44 per day – worth $248,112; up from 113 ($23,424) in May, 2017.
In June, 1043 offences were recorded worth $173,855, up from 110 ($19,380) in 2017.
“For the last six months I have been asking the government for the reasons behind the 10km/h speed limit reduction along this stretch of road,” Ms Hornery told the Herald on Wednesday.
“I can see why they wanted to keep this information quiet. The number of fines issued has skyrocketed and the government has pocketed more than one million dollars as a result of the speed-limit reduction.”
Hayley, a Wallsend resident, returned from a university trip in April unaware the speed limit had changed.
She was stung four times by the Griffiths Road camera in five days – two of which were on the same day, heading to and coming home from work in Newcastle.
The 22-year-old’s offences were 71, 72, 73 and 74km/h – all speeds which may have registered an offence at the old 70km/h limit.
Of the 726 offences at Griffiths Road in April, 521 – 72 per cent – were at 10km/h or less. At Thomas Street, 64 per cent were at 10km/h or less.
“I’d been away for uni, so I didn’t see any of the advertising to say it was being reduced. So I just did what I thought [the speed was],” she said. “Then I got a speeding fine in the mail on a Monday and I was so embarrassed.
“I came home from work on the Tuesday and there was three speeding fines in the mail. I just cried because I was so embarrassed.”
The offences carried six demerit points and cost more than $600 in fines.
Hayley managed to have it reduced to only one offence, after Ms Hornery put in an reference to support her dispute application.
“I’d never had any driving infringement,” she said.
Longtime driver of Newcastle Road, 82-year-old Colleen Shields was booked on her way to the shops by a mobile speed camera.
A Wallsend resident of more than 50 years, she said the “habit” of driving at 70km/h led to her offence.
She said she knew the reduction had occurred but was still caught out. She also questioned why the change needed to occur.
“I can’t think of any major accidents on that road,” she said. “I don’t know what’s motivated them to do it.”
Ms Hornery had questioned the RMS about the reasons for the reduction and was asked to pay $450 to access data under freedom of information laws in July.
“What is the RMS and the Minister hiding?,” she said in July. “I have repeatedly asked for the reports and the data behind this decision but yet again it has been denied.”
She said on Wednesday: “By reducing the speed limit along this section of road, it has become a cash cow for the government”.
“Despite this, we still don’t have the reasons behind the speed limit reduction. The Minister needs to justify why she implemented the speed limit reduction, resulting in one million dollars being gouged from commuters.”
By reducing the speed limit along this section of road, it has become a cash cow for the government.Wallsend MP Sonia Hornery
In a response to the Herald, Roads and Maritime Services said it had reduced the speed “to improve road safety and reduce the risk of crashes”.
“The reduced speed limit was introduced following a speed zone review which assessed a number of factors including crash history, road geometry, road environment, traffic volumes and the number of access points,” an RMS spokesperson said.
“The review was carried out in consultation with Newcastle City Council and NSW Police.”
While the RMS said inquires about “enforcement of speed limits” should be made to NSW Police, it said there was a grace period for motorists as they became accustomed to the reduction.
However, it did not indicate how long it ran for.
“For a period of time following the change, warning letters instead of fines were issued to speeding motorists who were detected by the two red-light speed cameras along this section of road unless they exceeded the speed limit by more than 30 km/h,” the RMS spokesperson said.