Friday 25th Sep, 2020

Perth Freight Link to go ahead next year

Roe Highway upgrade - Perth Freight Link. Photo: Creative Commons
Photo: Creative Commons

The controversial road project designed to link Fremantle with central Perth will begin in 2016, according to WA senator and minister for finance Mathias Cormann.

Cormann on Sunday reiterated his past commitments to a 2016 start date, saying the Perth Freight Link is “long overdue”.

He said Canberra is confident that both phases of the $1.6 billion road project – which has been opposed by environmental groups and rail advocates alike – will be underway by 2016.

That’s despite WA Premier Colin Barnett being unable to confirm a 2016 commencement in WA Parliament earlier this month.

During question time on August 18, Labor member for West Swan, Rita Saffioti, asked if Barnett could confirm Cormann’s suggestion of a 2016.

“Who is correct,” Saffioti asked, “the Premier or Mr Cormann? Will stage 2 commence next year?”

Barnett replied that until an exact route for stage two is determined, all the necessary approvals are in place, contracts are signed, and construction commissioned, “no-one can put an exact timing on that”.

However, Cormann said on August 30 that the the Commonwealth is working with the Barnett Government to finally make the project a reality, starting next year.

Cormann said that while more trade through WA, and in particular, the Port of Fremantle, is a positive, it also means more trucks on the roads to Fremantle Port.

“Currently those trucks are using fragmented and inefficient sections of our road network, mixing with commuter and local traffic, creating excessive disruptions to local communities,” he said.

“Without the Perth Freight Link as a productivity enhancing piece of strategic road infrastructure, this worsening congestion will increasingly act as a handbrake on our economy.”

Meanwhile, shadow parliamentary secretary for WA, Alannah Mactiernan has pointed out there was no careful planning or Infrastructure Australia assessment prior to the announcement of the Perth Freight Link in July 2014.

“The Perth Freight Link is an irresponsible, ill-planned project that will worsen the congestion problems around Fremantle and threaten WA’s future trade growth by leaving us short of critical port capacity,” Mactiernan said.

Instead, Mactiernan said, the Barnett and Abbott Governments should get on with planning and developing the outer harbour at the Port of Fremantle, rather than “wasting scarce taxpayer money on outdated roads on a constrained port”.

Problems with the project that have been cited by the Labor Party and opposing groups such as Rethink The Link include the destruction of wetlands, the threat to homes and businesses, and the fact that the Link will stop 1.5km short of the Port of Fremantle.

Curtin University professor of sustainability and former Infrastructure Australia board member Peter Newman has also opposed the project, saying it undermines the bipartisan push to get more freight on rail at the port.

Related story: Former IA member: Perth Freight Link uneconomic, undermines rail

“If you’re going to build a toll road which is faster for trucks, why would you keep subsidising rail?” Newman pondered in July. “You want to pay off the road. I don’t think the case has been looked at, at all, to see how this really undermines the whole process of the rail option.”

The Perth Freight Link is jointly funded by the Commonwealth and WA governments. It involves building a freight freeway into Fremantle in two sections, both of which are due to be contracted to developers later this year.

The project is expected to be completed by 2019. Main Roads WA estimates that the Perth Freight Link will result in the removal of 500 trucks per day from Leach Highway, between Kwinana Freeway and Stock Road, by 2031.

With additional reporting from Oliver Probert.

This is an edited version of an article which originally appeared in Rail Express affiliate Lloyd’s List Australia.


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