Guest Post by Alex Fletcher – Last chance for public transport in Perth?
December 10, 2015 1 Comment
Freewheeling Freo lawyer Alex Fletcher sent me his thoughts on the PFL, port, and transport in Perth and while I don’t agree with all of it I thought it was an excellent addition to the debate and he kindly agreed to me posting it up:
A deal has apparently been struck for the Federal Government to contribute $300 million to the $500 million Roe 8 project, with contracts to be signed this week.
The Barnett Government is not yet committed to the later stages of the Perth Freight Link. However, once Roe 8 is built, it seems likely the Government will argue for the completion of the rest of the Link. A partial link will not satisfy freight operators.
Roe 8 could have serious long-term consequences for Fremantle and Perth.
Fremantle has far greater potential as a city for people, rather than trucks and containers. While it should continue to be a working port, it should supplement a heavy industrial port at Kwinana, not substitute it for short term expediency.
The other big issue is – should we be spending our limited money on more roads, or should we start building the progressive transport networks that Perth desperately needs?
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is keen on public transport. Hopefully he will help Perth with more Commonwealth funding for intelligent transport infrastructure projects.
Some useful background:
- “Perth’s roads will become Australia’s most congested and its key rail lines approach crush capacity” – https://au.news.yahoo.com/thewest/wa/a/28188195/perth-gridlock-to-top-nation/
- The Department of Transport of California has recognised that building more roads does not fix congestion – http://www.citylab.com/commute/2015/11/californias-dot-admits-that-more-roads-mean-more-traffic/415245/?utm_content=buffer759e6&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer
- The RAC considers it critical to invest in public transport now, to deal with future congestion.
Transport Minister Dean Nalder argues that Roe 8 will “take 5,000 trucks off local roads…while delivering faster journey times for people who live and work south of the river”.
These statements do not entirely stack up:
- Roe 8 will not take 5,000 trucks off local roads. It will simply move them to other local roads. Further, road congestion in residential neighbourhoods will get worse because Roe 8 will commit future increases in freight to road, not rail.
- Leach Highway may be “freed up” short term for commuters, but people will quickly change their behaviour to take advantage of this (ie start driving more), meaning it will soon be at capacity, given the lack of other good options.
- The Southern Suburbs will consequently suffer from a significant increase in both cars and trucks and carcinogenic diesel particulates (without even taking into account population growth over the next 10 years).
I expect Minister Nalder is forced to accept Roe 8 because the better solutions are too expensive for the State Government to bear alone.
A transport engineer recently argued to me that Perth needs ports at both Fremantle and Kwinana, and that Roe 8 will service both ports. He felt that, while public transport is important, the productivity of freight operations was paramount for the state and should take priority. He effectively considered that the Perth Freight Link would have the best economic result for the state at the lowest cost. These are good arguments, and are probably representative of the Government’s views.
But they are outdated.
Cities need intelligent and forward-thinking structures in place. They need to be easy to get around. They need to create an environment that encourages us to be physically active and engaged in the community. They need to prioritise people. They will then be wildly successful.
The rest of the world is shifting away from roads. One of the key reasons is their impact on people’s health. Governments are being buried under healthcare spending, including for obesity and diabetes epidemics. People need more physical activity. Investment in public transport and cycling/walking paths is key. People who catch the bus or train to work are significantly healthier because they do more walking each day.
The infrastructure decisions we make now will determine the city of the future. It looks like Perth will be a city that ignores human, creative and tourist potential, but has sweet tarmac.
There are already roads used by trucks to get to Fremantle Port. Why build another one?
- The issue is that the current roads are congested and dangerous, meaning freight operators are not operating at full efficiency.
- The aim of Roe 8 is to service both Fremantle Port and Kwinana and ease commuter congestion.
Then why don’t we:
- Build light rail from Fremantle along Leach Highway to Perth Airport (in stages, and linking with lines into the Perth CBD) so people get off the road, freeing it up for trucks.
- Increase trains on the Mandurah Line to service the Southern Corridor better and free up Kwinana Freeway for trucks too.
- Service Fremantle Port with both rail and trucks, using the existing rail and roads, including using rail for a higher proportion of freight.
- Start building the Outer Harbour at Kwinana now.
- When finished, service Kwinana Port with a combination of the existing rail system (which already links Kwinana with Fremantle Port and the Perth Airport industrial area), and trucks on existing roads.
- Potentially fund some of the above by the Government developing part of Fremantle Port with a high density residential, commercial and entertainment precinct.
This may adequately service both the Ports and the needs of freight operators. The only new infrastructure would be light rail along a busy route and increased frequency on the Mandurah Line, which would be extremely valuable for Perth’s commuters.
This solution would help make Perth a healthy, world-class city, ready for the knowledge economy.
Director – Freewheeler ( www.freewheeler.com )
Principal – Fletcher Law ( www.fletcherlaw.com.au )