This interesting story about a Saab cars in Australia comes from a fan page dedicated to the history of the old lost western suburbs of Melbourne. The event we bring to you on this blog took place in the mid-1980s on the famous The West Gate Bridge there.
The West Gate Bridge is a cable-stayed bridge in Melbourne, and was opened to the public on November 15, 1978. It spans the Yarra River just before its mouth in Port Phillip and connects downtown with the industrial areas in the west of the city. The West Gate Bridge is the third longest bridge in Australia: at 2582.6m it is twice as long as the Sydney Harbor Bridge. The longest span is 336 m, the height above the Yarra 58 m.
An interesting thing is that from the beginning of public use, a toll was collected on the bridge, until the moment when this documentary photo was recorded, in which we see a Saab 900. The bridge was originally tolled. Tolls were abolished in 1985, because drivers were using other routes to avoid the toll.
The first toll-exempted motorist, Mr Chris Olszewski with his Saab 900, of Murrumbeena, crossed the bridge about 1.30pm that day. That was after a five-minute delay while press cameramen fussed over the last paying customer – Mrs Sharon Foote, of Drysdale, near Geelong. Mr Olszewski said he felt “lucky” and would take out a Tattslotto ticket using the numbers on his unused bridge vouchers.
But the media hype didn’t impress 13 toll collectors who found themselves out of a job. Bill Kenny has collected tolls since the bridge opened seven years before that event. He has found another job but it involves an extra hour of travel a day and a significant pay cut. “I think it stinks,’ he said as he waved traffic through the toll barrier. He blamed Left-wing ALP pressure for the backdown on an agreement 20 years ago that if a bridge linking the west was built, the Government would charge tolls. The Government is expected to lose between $6million and $10million a year by not charging the tolls.
Bemused motorists slowed, wound down their windows and tried to pay – only to be told by Mr Kenny: “It’s all over.” The RCA said pedestrians and cyclists would still be banned from the bridge, which is used by 35,000 vehicles a day and has had 75 million crossings since it opened in 1978. An RCA spokesman said the 24 remaining bridge staff would be employed until the end of the year. Eleven would be retained.