There is a heated debate going on here on Freo’s View between people who support the Perth Freight Link and those who don’t. It is good and important that the Mayor of Fremantle Brad Pettitt is one of them and I find it disappointing that he gets slammed for being political, so I would like to go back to a few basic facts about it all.
The latest Factbase published yesterday by the Committee for Perth, with participation from the universities of Notre Dame and Western Australia, states very clearly that “One of the most critical industries for Fremantle remains its Port.” We also read today that the State Government is spending nearly $ 23 million on advisers for the ‘sale’ of Fremantle and Port Hedland ports, so there is little doubt that a private operator will be in charge of Fremantle Ports in the near future and they won’t be paying a billion dollars or so for a port that would stop operating in 15 years time.
An outer harbour port is necessary and will be built but will be an overflow port for decades to come and that means traffic to Fremantle Port will increase and has to be dealt with as the current status quo is unacceptable.
The present rail freight line along the coast and the old railway bridge can’t handle double-stacked container trains and even if that was possible it would unlikely be more than 25-30% of the entire freight to port, which means 75 per cent of freight will still come by road and on trucks. I hate the idea of it but that is the reality we will have to work with and find solutions for.
The planned PFL and Roe 8 will do damage to the Beeliar Wetlands but a new highway to a new outer harbour would also impact on other wetlands, and building the outer harbour would have a significant environmental impact on Cockburn Sound.
The suggested tunnel from Roe 8 to Stirling Highway sound like the best of bad options, but it ends at Stirling Highway and that is not acceptable as it would make an utter traffic mess in that part of Fremantle, East Fremantle and North Fremantle.
Duplicating Stirling Bridge is a very ugly option that would only create the destruction of North Fremantle and a bypass over North Fremantle straight into the Port would be similarly ugly and would affect those who have invested millions in real estate there as no one would like to live under the thunder of trucks.
Is a tunnel under the river a viable option? Some ‘experts’ say it is but others say it can’t work because the incline would be too steep for trucks.
No doubt Mainroads and experts are looking at all the alternatives and all the options below and above ground, but whatever the State Government decides on will be done under pressure from Canberra where ministers have clearly stated that they will not be happy with anything less than the entire Perth Freight Link to Femantle Ports.
Dreaming that Fremantle Port will close soon is totally unrealistic and so is the dream that the outer harbour will replace the inner harbour in the foreseeable future. It is not going to happen, so forget it.
I am against the Perth Freight Link because at present it is a road to nowhere, unless a solution can be found to extend it into the port without destroying North and East Freo, and I am against it because of the damage it will do to the Beeliar Wetlands, but so far I have read a lot of hype, hot air, dreams and ‘solutions’ that don’t seem practical even to a layman like me, so why not leave it to the experts and see what they will come up with.
The better outcome would be trying to double freight on rail as fast as possible and keep the PFL underground all the way into the Port, and then prioritise the building of the outer harbour, but all that will unfortunately take a very long time while truck traffic to Fremantle Port will keep increasing.