Industry call to depoliticise Perth Freight Link

Infrastructure WA seen as circuit-breaker for contentious but crucial project

Industry call to depoliticise Perth Freight Link
Craig Smith-Gander


Perth Freight Link, the road building game Western Australian politicians have played for years, needs to become a transport infrastructure project rather than a political football, state business and transport bodies urge.

The Chamber of Commerce and Industry WA (CCI) and Western Roads Federation (WRF) have called for state development to come before party political indulgence on the project.

The organisations say they have long called for the inner-south link to Fremantle Port to be built to provide "critical relief from crippling road congestion, boost productivity for businesses across the metropolitan area and improve safety outcomes for commuters by diverting more large freight vehicles off suburban roads".

"Perth Freight Link, which includes Roe 8 and Roe 9, has been recognised since the 1950s as an important, strategic road project for WA’s transport network and recognised by Infrastructure Australia in 2016 as a high priority project," they note.

According to CCI CEO Chris Rodwell, while they have been strong supporters of this project, "it is clear that a circuit breaker is required".

"We are calling for Roe 8 and Roe 9 to be referred to Infrastructure WA, and its assessment prioritised, so that these projects can be independently assessed on their merits," Rodwell says.

"That is why Infrastructure WA was established – to help take the politics out of how our state’s infrastructure needs are prioritised and support more robust decision-making.

"Critically, Infrastructure WA’s role is to provide a comprehensive view of the State’s infrastructure needs that considers the needs of all sectors, ‘including water, digital, health, energy, education, transport, cultural, recreational, justice, agriculture, housing, safety and environmental infrastructure’.

"It is crucial that this issue is resolved before the next state election to ensure that WA businesses and the community at large have more clarity and certainty about the fate of these projects, particularly given Roe 8 and Roe 9 were not considered as part of Westport’s planning scope."

WRF chairman Craig Smith-Gander observes that last week’s release of Westport’s shortlist confirmed that the Roe 8 and Roe 9 corridor were not assessed as part of its technical studies because the state government had ruled out building the project.

"Given a full technical assessment was not conducted, it is not possible for Westport to confidently state that these projects would not have featured on its shortlist and do not merit being built.

"Congestion around Fremantle Port is predominantly caused by increased passenger traffic, not trucks, so road upgrades are still required," Smith-Gander says.

"Our state can’t afford for infrastructure projects that support economic growth and job creation, like Roe 8 and Roe 9, to be held back by politics.

"Infrastructure WA is the appropriate, independent body to comprehensively assess these projects."

Read how the WRF greeted the Liberal backdown on PFL charging, here 

The intervention follows the state government’s independent Westport Taskforce report on freight planning for the next 50 years, which rejects Inner Harbour at Fremantle, the Outer Harbour at Kwinana as Perth’s best long-term option as a container port.

The need for a new port has been a complicating factor, along with environmental impact and competing demands on the state financial resources, for where such huge spending should be directed.

Opposition to the Coalition’s path for the freeways was a plank of the Labor Party’s winning election campaign but the path was boosted in Liza Harvey’s ill-planned entry into the debate as new Liberal leader.

Meanwhile, in a continuing campaign that bodes ill for ‘independent umpires’, the Labor government is contending with the state Maritime Union of Australia (MUA), which supports Fremantle and also argues that the Westport Taskforce’s approach has been flawed.

"As members of the Westport reference group we also have serious concerns about the process that led to this outcome and are seeking answers," MUA deputy secretary Adrian Evans states.

The union argues that Westport shortlist admits that with distance comes increased cost, and that cost is likely to be passed onto the consumer.

"The distance between the port options in Cockburn Sound and our current distribution centres is more than double the distance from Fremantle," it says.

"All five of the shortlist options would result in trucks travelling longer distances, burning more fuel, emitting more pollution, and ultimately costing consumers more.

"Earlier in the week Labor ministers were pointing to road data showing freight routs to/from Fremantle Port didn’t make the top-10 list for future congestion in Perth – but the report released by Westport goes to great lengths to paint a picture of a truckpocaplyse unless port operations are quickly moved out of Fremantle.

"Westport has ignored real data showing freight volumes increasing 2% each year since 2014 and actual numbers of trucks on our local roads decreasing by 5% each of those same years."


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