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Avoiding tolls might not save you money

Traffic congestion on Sydney's M4 Motorway

Sydney's much-maligned motorway and toll road network is saving motorists massive amounts of time and fuel, a new survey by the NRMA has found.

Drivers using the congested M5, M4 and M2/M7 can slash journey times by up to 75 per cent compared to tackling the free alternative "rat run" routes.

The NRMA's Travel Time Survey, released to News Corp Australia, also found cars travelling on motorways use on average 30 per cent less fuel to get to and from work.

The startling differences come despite figures showing average journey times on the M2/M7 and M4 have gone up in the past eight years. However, peak-hour travel times on the M5 improved by six minutes in the same period, thanks to the M5 West being widened to three lanes.

The survey showed that a car using the combined M7/M2/Lane Cove Tunnel and Gore Hill Freeway to get into and out of the CBD from Quakers Hill during AM and PM peaks averaged 53 minutes for the journey.

But when the driver used the free rat run route, which included Sunnyholt Rd, Old Windsor Rd, James Ruse Dr and Epping Rd, the journey took 104 minutes.

If it gets me to where I want to go quickly, I don't mind paying the tolls. We should have toll ways right across Sydney.

On the M4 it took 50 minutes to travel from its junction with Russell St at Emu Plains to where the motorway ends at Parramatta Rd, Concord. But on the alternative route, including the Great Western Hwy and Parramatta Rd, the drive lasted 83 minutes.

Driving on the M5 from the Narellan Rd exit at Campbelltown to the CBD, including Southern Cross Dr and the Eastern Distributor, took on average 79 minutes.

The M2 from the Gibbon Rd overpass at Winston Hills/Baulkham Hills.

Taking the alternative roads, including Campbelltown Rd, the Hume Hwy, Canterbury Rd, King Georges Rd and South Dowling St, meant a 129-minute drive.

Average speeds on the motorway routes were higher than the alternative arterials.

The speed on the M7 averaged 52km/h in the peak periods, compared with 30km/h across the rat runs.

Along the M5, speeds reached just 49km/h on average, but still an improvement on 30km/h for the non-motorway roads.

It gets us home to our families faster and safer, and it means we use less fuel, which is better for our hip pockets and the environment

Researchers travelled on the motorways and the alternative roads during the morning and evening peak periods over six consecutive days, using identical cars with GPS tracking equipment

NRMA president Kyle Loades said the results strengthen the case for investing in major transport infrastructure such as WestConnex, NorthConnex and the Sydney Metro North-West rail line.

"Decent transport infrastructure makes our lives better — it gets us home to our families faster and safer, it helps small businesses deliver goods and services more efficiently and it means we use less fuel, which is better for our hip pockets and the environment," Mr Loades said.

Roads Minister Duncan Gay said the NRMA was a tough judge, making the results "even more impressive".

Toll lover David is on a roll

Western Sydney businessman David Brendish is a motorway fan.

The owner of print brokerage In Nepean Media Group in St Mary's said he used the freeways and toll roads almost daily to make sure he looks after his clients' needs.

"I'm basically on call 24 hours and I need to take the most direct route I can," he said. "If it gets me to where I want to go quickly, I don't mind paying the tolls. We should have toll ways right across Sydney."

Mr Brendish said his "greatest disappointment" was the NSW government's removal of the toll on the M4 in 2010, which led to a surge in vehicle numbers.

"Everyone started using it instead of alternative routes," he said.