Is there a logical alternative to the Perth Freight Link?

As the debate around Perth Freight Link (PFL) heats up the Fremantle Councillors and I legitimately get asked: what are the alternatives to WA’s most expensive road project running through Fremantle?

Interestingly there is an emerging but clear consensus across communities from Fremantle to Rockingham and from groups like Property Council and the Kwinana Industry Council that the PFL should be abandoned and the Outer Harbour built ASAP instead.

Below I have attempted to expand on this logical alternative and would love your feedback:

  1. The future metropolitan freight task should be approached by implementing a cap-and-transition away from the current Inner Harbour of Fremantle port as soon as possible, starting with removal of break bulk, steel and cars from Victoria Quay, and moving to the development of container freight capacity at the Outer Harbour within 7-10 years.
  2. Retaining Fremantle inner harbour long term on North Quay only but with a lower capacity than its peak.
  3. High priority should be given to lower-cost upgrades to Stirling Hwy and High St (such as double turn right lane and left-in, left-out only of side streets) to improve safety, traffic efficiency and amenity of local residents (estimated cost $50 to $70 million).
  4. Planning and infrastructure investment must be concentrated on the proper development of the Outer Harbour, Latitude 32, and appropriate road and rail connections, including other intermodal facilities, an extension/upgrade to Tonkin Hwy, and improving freight management practices.


  1. Fast-track development of the Outer Harbour will shift the growth in truck freight off Stirling, Leach, and Canning Highways to a dedicated route away from residential areas.
  2. This means the expensive and environmentally damaging Roe 8 project may not be required.
  3. South Quay land (from D Shed to Traffic Bridge) will be made available through the removal of low-value uses like the unloading of new cars, creating the potential for valuable waterfront redevelopment. This will also reconnect Fremantle to the waterfront by enabling better access to the harbour from the Fremantle city centre.
  4. Investment in the Outer Harbour will be of major economic benefit to south-west corridor, enabling the economies of Cockburn, Kwinana, Rockingham, Armadale and Serpentine/Jarrahdale to diversify and develop, bringing new jobs and investment.

This last point was taken up by the Property Council in their recent report Keep WA Growing where they say that the Western Trade Coast development is one of the three key investments needed for the state and will enable $13.7 billion of economic activity over 20 years and would support 6,500 per annum jobs at 2025 and 20,800 jobs per annum at full build out in 2040.

The primary downside will be the environmental impacts on Cockburn Sound of the Outer Harbour. But (and this is an important but) every indication is that the Outer Harbour will have to be built in the few decades regardless of the PFL so it seems to me it is better to bite the bullet on this now rather than seriously damage two fragile environments.

I look forward to your thoughts.

For the Property Council report see the link below and here are some graphics from it

western trade coast outer harbour

About Mayor of Fremantle Brad Pettitt's blog
City of Fremantle Mayor

14 Responses to Is there a logical alternative to the Perth Freight Link?

  1. Emma Anda says:

    Thank you thank you thank you. So refreshing to hear the whole situation discussed with some fresh air and common sense and a few steps back. Every time I think of the PFL lately my pulse starts to beat faster, there is such an atmosphere of rush and urgency around it now that this govt seems to have attached to it. Only thing I can think of is there must be a crazy pressure from within to get as many contracts signed as possible before anything hits the fan. Which doesn’t exactly strike a warm feeling of confidence into my heart.

  2. Jon hunter says:

    Thanks for posting this Brad. this all makes so much sense, but how do we convince our current government who appear to have other agendas

  3. robjwall says:

    I agree with your logic. However it worries me that Fremantle becomes nothing if not a port. What can we learn from cities like London or Sydney that have moved the main harbour?

  4. freoishome says:

    I have been posting these ideas for several years now. So it feels good that the Mayor and Councillors have been listening, even if they haven’t made comment, until now!

  5. Kim Johnson says:

    Kwinana and the Outer Harbour are the obvious best solution . Fremantle has outgrown its useby date, as a freight port but could be retained for passenger ships and upriver ferries connecting to Perth.

  6. Dave says:

    Hey Brad, great post and I like the thought of a transition towards the outer harbour option. However, I really think its time to consider moving the ‘industrial’ port functions all together, and leaving Fremantle as a niche port serving passenger and cruise ships and other appropriate non-industrial vessels on the Victoria Quay side. The north quay side and all of the surrounding infrastructure could be developed into something really quite special. I get why you prefer port-type functions remaining, but my sense is that appropriate port-type activities on Victoria Quay will retain that feeling for Fremantle, but allowing redevelopment on the peninsula to the north. So many cities have done such a great job with their old port when they have outgrown in, and there’s probably a heap of do’s and don’ts to learn. The one that always sticks in my mind as a great example is the Puerto Madero area of Buenos Aires, where the old port is now a great urban development with linkages back to its former use.

    Either way the PFL has no logical place in the long term planning for Perth, its money that could be much better spent either getting the outer harbour commenced, or on other much needed transport projects such as light rail etc etc.

    • Dave (and Emma)
      You definitely identified a key point of debate that Freo needs to have over the next few months. Personally, I love that Freo has a working port and feel that it is a core part of our identity so I would be sad to see moved in its entirety. That is why have have suggested a cap and transition approach with a final number that the community can manage. That said, this might not be workable logistically and all the containers may need to move longer term. If that were to happen then I agree that North Quay is a huge opportunity to do a great redevelopment. NPQ without the need for islands.
      As you say, either way a maxed out port approaching 2 million containers per year (enabled by the PFL) is a bad outcome for Freo.
      thannks, Brad

  7. Zoe Barron says:

    Thanks for summarising this so clearly, Brad. I was overseas for the second, more action-driven community meeting about this – what can I do to help?

  8. Emma Anda says:

    I found Dave’s comment above very interesting Brad, and would love to hear your thoughts on it. There are times when I do wonder if even retaining a ‘smaller’ containerised freight type of Port in its central city location is just asking for continual variations of truck related traffic headaches. Can you envision it as a port looking ahead into the future that is focused efficiently on non-industrial port functions?

  9. Charley Hickey says:

    Thanks for outlining in such a clear and concise way an alternative to the PFL. It certainly sounds more sensible and avoids punching a road/tunnel through residential and environmentally sensitive areas. I hope some of the PFL supporters read this as it seems those of us that object are now being labelled as anti-progressive. I feel that is an unfair label as it is much less progressive to be considering building a new road for more trucks when there are more intelligent, sustainable options. As a long term Fremantle resident, I really appreciate the hard work of Fremantle Council moving Fremantle into a new era, despite criticism from some. I’m confident we can revitalise the city centre and make Fremantle a truly unique place to live, work & visit. PFL is contrary to this and I worry what will happen to my beloved Fremantle if it goes ahead.

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