Trialling the M7 beta
Right, it's been a while since I talked about driving, so I thought I'd do a quick review of the M7 "Westlink" motorway. The M7 is a new motorway that goes all the way from the M5 near Ingleburn to the M2 near Seven Hills, detouring via Richmond Road. It's free until Jan 15, which means people can try it out and see if it's any good.
The good news is that it's all variable speed, and there's no tollbooths as such. There's just cameras and eway tag detectors littered throughout the various entrances and exits. Because it's pay-per-distance, they check the e-way tag when you get on, as well as when you get off. Having said that, other than the re-assuring "beep", it's all pretty transparent, so there's no bottlenecks where people are slowing down (at least, not due to some pay-system).
The variable speed means smoother traffic flow and more control. In short, this motorway is pretty swish, unlike the M5, and despite the possibility of becoming really slow in parts, I'm sure the overall ride will still be quick. The company that set this up strikes me as competent. It's been build ahead of schedule, looks like it's working, and there's been no bad press that I've heard of. No news is good news, especially when contrasted with the cross city tunnel.
The bad news is mainly how much it hits the hip pocket. It's over 7 bucks for the full trip, and that doesn't include the extra $4 that the M2 charges, if you go on that. It's by far the best way to go "diagonally" in the west. I doubt there's a quicker way to get from the north east to the south west, or from the south east to the north west. The other option is through the city, which is guaranteed to be slow during peak hour.
So here's the damage: If I wanted to get to work at 9:00, it'd take me 1:40 to do it via the M5 / King George's way. If I wanted to get there at 9:30, it'd take me 1:00 hr. To get to work at 9:00 using the M7 / M2 takes 45 minutes. Total cost for the trip: ~$12. The basic deal is, if you get paid a wage, you have to be making more than $12 an hour after tax to make it worth your while.
All in all, it's a good road, but arguably not worth it. If time is of the essence, then use it, but that's rarely likely. Frankly, the value of the road for me is that it gets traffic off the roads I use often.