Open minds

MARK WOODCOCK is convenor of the White Gum Valley precinct and chair of the Fremantle Residents and Ratepayers Association. Writing under his personal hat, he says the debate about the Perth Freight Link has been lacking some facts.

A RESPONSE is needed to Alison Bolas’ Thinking Allowed article (Herald, July 11, 2015) where she proposed we should all oppose the Perth Freight Link (PFL) “whatever route is chosen”.

The current form of the PFL will be a disaster for Fremantle, and must be challenged, but opposing all options before they are even presented leaves us exposed to a possible worst-case scenario. Does this make sense?

Our government is likely to push ahead with some form of PFL whether we like it or not. The inner-harbour is going to remain as a working port indefinitely, growth in freight will continue until Fremantle port reaches capacity. Container transport through Fremantle has grown almost 70 per cent in the past decade and is forecast to grow another 60 per cent by 2022. The current truck route already divides Fremantle in two, continuing to do so even with 30 per cent rail.

Economic driver

There is a strong economic driver for the state to build the PFL, we can sit on the sidelines and oppose everything or engage the state government, to ensure the best outcome is achieved for Fremantle residents.

It is not helpful when misinformation is spread through the community to polarise opinions. A more fact-based approach serves everyone better than a fear-driven one.

The PFL would not introduce new trucks into the system, as demand is driven by the number of containers using the port. The logic around roads creating traffic only applies to cars in this scenario.

Trucks travelling through Fremantle will emit pollution whether the PFL is built or not. If you want to stop truck emissions in Fremantle then the existing port needs to close permanently. This is not going to happen. Or we could buy less imported goods!

To minimise pollution, vehicles need to travel at a constant speed, requiring the removal of traffic lights—this is one aim of the PFL. Blaming truck pollution on the PFL lacks credibility, quoting chemical formulas will not change the maths. Doing nothing ensures the worst pollution outcome for Fremantle. More stops and starts equals more pollution.

The tunnel design described by Ms Bolas was appropriate for Northbridge, but is impractical for tunnelling under White Gum Valley and Beaconsfield. They didn’t open-cut road tunnels through the Alps, so there are obviously other tunnelling methods available to the road builders. To state that it will involve requisitioning of property, open-cut construction, that it will cause significant damage to homes is scaremongering. This type of rhetoric is irresponsible, as it can be highly distressing to residents in the area. Let’s get the facts first!

The Roe Hwy extension west of Stock Rd is along a road reserve that was specifically set aside for this road decades ago. To describe it as natural bushland and a green corridor is deliberately misleading. For decades it’s been a road reserve, which is the only reason it has not been developed!

The City of Fremantle and its advisors CUSP are pushing for a new port at Kwinana with a truck/rail interchange at the Latitude 32 industrial area. They neglect to point out the Latitude 32 project also involves upgrading 18km of road to a new four-lane highway from the Kwinana port to Tonkin Hwy, and the extension of Roe Hwy to Stock Rd, otherwise known as Roe 8 (http://latitude32.com.au/project-overview/location/)

Only 30 per cent of freight is destined for the Kewdale area, accessible by rail. A container delivered to O’Connor would travel 14km by truck from Latitude 32 compared with just 7km direct from Fremantle port, doubling the pollution. Trucks carrying freight from Latitude 32 would travel up to 15km more by road to their destination than directly from Fremantle port. More truck kilometres resulting in more pollution, so this option actually increases diesel-based pollution.

CUSP’s preferred alternative is to build a $2.2 billion rail tunnel out of Fremantle port, connecting to rail to Latitude 32. Containers that get transferred to trucks must then drive 15km further than if they had just driven direct from Fremantle port. This is all documented in the “expert’s” report.

Meanwhile, there are already 67,000 vehicles passing through North Fremantle every day, of which just 4100 are trucks. High Street only carries 38,000 vehicles per day.

Tunnelling

There are tunnelling options that could take all of this traffic from Marmion Stret under the river and North Fremantle, solve the new river crossing, eliminate the same number of traffic lights as the current PFL, deliver trucks directly to the port, delivering cars north of the Leighton Beach development. Imagine how this could transform North Fremantle and additional benefits through the heart of Fremantle—perhaps this should be the priority ahead of the current PFL proposal? Sadly, there is no discussion.

No doubt the opponents of the PFL will be the same who oppose the new Kwinana port in 10 years from now, on grounds the dredging of a second shipping channel and the reclamation or huge areas of Cockburn Sound will cause irreparable damage to the marine ecosystem.

We need proper debate in Fremantle about the PFL and this is not happening. Our councillors have deserted their Fremantle ratepayers and are falling in along party lines with their political masters in state and federal politics or self-interest.

Where is the local leadership when you need it most on such a crucial issue? We need engagement with the Barnett government, not political grand-standing by the City of Fremantle, to ensure the best possible outcome for all of Fremantle!

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