Let’s talk truck

MARTIN LEE is a commercial adviser to the energy sector. In this week’s THINKING ALLOWED he suggests there are worse options than the PFL.

THE Perth Freight Link is a deeply divisive issue in the southern suburbs, and why shouldn’t it be? Everyone agrees the Barnett government has handled this poorly, and it has created more questions than answers.

Who wants 18km of new freeway carving up our suburbs, roads being pushed through wetlands, trucks driving more kilometres than absolutely necessary spewing their diesel particulates into our kids lungs?

Who wants our government to waste billions of dollars on infrastructure that will struggle to be fully utilised in our lifetimes, and which will cause irreparable damage to our environmentally sensitive heritage? What absolute madness …and I am not even referring to the Perth Freight Link!

A closer look

The PFL has been criticised far and wide, but let’s take a closer look at the alternative being pushed by the Greens, Labor, the City of Fremantle, the City of Cockburn, and the 20 or so anti-PFL organisations that filled the Fremantle Festival parade last Sunday.

Moving the Port to Kwinana does not come without its own extensive list of issues, and many have more in common with the PFL than you might imagine.

First, a Kwinana Port does not result in more containers being put on trains. This is dictated by the destination for these containers, not where the port is located. Kewdale is the only destination in the greater Perth area that receives more than about five per cent of the total containers delivered from Fremantle Port.

Kewdale receives about 35–40 per cent of all containers, with about 15 per cent arriving by rail. Unfortunately, Perth just isn’t set up for a magical rail solution, and no amount of fairy dust is likely to change this.

The government has set an aspirational target of getting 30 per cent of containers out of Fremantle by rail, but the figures above show even this is ambitious.

Secondly, the Kwinana proposal revolves around the Latitude32 proposal, which involves a rail hub to be established just inland of Cockburn Sound. However, containers loaded onto trucks at Latitude32 would actually travel further to their destinations around Perth, with the exception of Bibra Lake, and will actually contribute more diesel particulates into our atmosphere than if delivered directly from Fremantle Port.

Thirdly, Latidue32 involves the construction of 18km of new freeway to extend Tonkin Hwy to Kwinana. It would cut a new path right through the middle of people’s properties and through the precious chain of wetlands that stretches from North Lake to beyond Rockingham in the south.

This is the same wetlands system the Roe 8 project is to cut through, and I wonder whether there are people who are just as passionate about protecting the pristine Spectacles Wetlands in Anketell as those who want to protect Bibra Lake?

Finally, the Latitude32 business plan involves the construction of a new link from Stock Road to Roe Highway (Roe 8).

This is a crucial bit of infrastructure required to make the Latitude32 proposal work. Without it, trucks going to most of the southern metro areas would need to do so via the airport, which would be a ridiculous outcome if we want to minimise truck kilometres and emissions.

This is all laid out in the Latitude32 business plan that the City of Fremantle’s $20,000 CUSP report refers to as its great solution to all of our problems. Cr Josh Wilson’s moaning in last week’s Thinking Allowed (Herald, October 31, 2015) about “cutting through one of the few remaining wetlands in the metro area” and “a humongous instalment of old-style asphalt” is about as shallow as his efforts to read his own council’s report on the matter.

The $5 billion-plus Kwinana Port is not without its own challenges, as it requires the dredging of the environmentally sensitive sea grass habitat in Cockburn Sound. The project involves reclaiming land in the Sound, and new channels must be dredged for ships to access the new port.

Cockburn Sound can at least feel reassured it has a well-oiled machine of professional environmental protesters at the ready to defend it, should anyone dare to threaten this precious eco-system. I am quite sure they could just print their slogans on the back of their Rethink-The-Link placards, and claim an extra brownie-point for recycling at the same time.

The City of Melville supports the PFL, as it gets traffic off Melville’s roads. The City of Kwinana is against the PFL because the Kwinana Port concept would generate massive economic benefits to the Kwinana area, including a huge boost in employment. Both are valid drivers.

Meanwhile the City of Fremantle’s councillors are clinging to the coat tails of their political masters. The Labor versus Greens battle for Freo gathers pace.

Cr Josh Wilson works for federal Labor MP Melissa Parke, and is still hoping someone will notice him when the next pre-selection opportunity arises. Cr Rachel Pemberton works for Greens Senator Scott Ludlum, a major funder of the Rethink-The-Link campaign.

That then leaves our mayor. You can just imagine Dr Petitt being [quite happy to fight this battle with all the vigour an ambitious career politician could muster].

Be under no illusion, this is all about the 2016 state election. The anti-PFL campaign is just a tool, and they are hoping you won’t dig into the facts too deeply. Machiavelli would be proud!

Whether the PFL goes ahead or not, we have a traffic congestion problem in North Fremantle today, and since nobody intends to shut Fremantle Port, the problem will just continue to get worse.

Perhaps premier Colin Barnett could park Roe 9 for now and spend the money solving the North Fremantle and Swan River crossing problem first.

A tunnel under the river from Stirling Highway/High Street all the way to Leighton rail yards would get 68,000 cars per day out of North Fremantle, and a spur directly into the port would remove all trucks from Tydeman Road.

Imagine what that would do to North Fremantle.

Sadly, we cannot even start this type of conversation — our elected community leaders have other priorities.

18. TOEF bushfires notice 28x3 18. TOEF Festival 10x3 18. TOEF Festival road closure 10x2

2 responses to “Let’s talk truck

  1. Only one problem with Martins Lees argument, it’s based on logic and common sense, which will leave a few in Freo scratching their heads

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