BARRY HEALY was part of the Fremantle Road to Rail campaign, is a whizz on diesel particulate pollution, and lives in HollIand Street in Freo. In this week’s THINKING ALLOWED, Barry urges the Labor party to think long and hard before spending millions on upgrading the High Street/Stirling Highway intersection. On Thursday there was an accident involving a truck at the intersection, resulting in gridlock and major traffic congestion in the surrounding area.
WITH the demise of the Perth Freight Link the question of road works at the High Street/Stirling Highway intersection have again bubbled up.
When Anthony Albanese was a federal minister he promised federal money for that intersection and I wonder if this question would be debated now if that money wasn’t on the table.
Colin Barnett was roundly condemned for pushing the Perth Freight Link without a proper business case. Yet here we have a project worth over $100 million that again has no business case.
Exactly how many more trucks are to be put around that corner?
What size noise walls would be required to control the din?
How much more diesel particulate pollution is to be inflicted on Fremantle?
When will a proper public health survey be conducted to assess how much illness and mortality would be caused by those trucks?
Nothing should be done before answers to those questions have been made public.
The March agenda papers for the WA Port Operations Task Force on Fremantle Port website show that the Freight and Logistics Council’s committee on reducing rail freight noise is well advanced in its work, which is more than welcome news.
However, Fremantle Port has never once demonstrated the same resolve regarding truck noise or diesel particulate pollution.
It is well past time that proper landside transport planning was forced onto Fremantle Port and all government road proposals fitted into an overall plan to manage car numbers.
According to Fremantle Port publications a significant percentage of all trucks go to and from the Port empty.
These truck movements are what the Port quaintly terms “futile”.
What other business would get away with inflicting such losses on its customers? How is a publicly owned facility allowed to impose pollution and noise on the community for “futile” activity?
Fremantle Port gets away with it because it pushes all the commercial, social, environmental and health impacts of its operations onto others.
The Perth Freight Link was an attempt to “externalise” all the costs of landside Port operations.
What if Fremantle Port were forced to pay a fine, perhaps $100 for each “futile” truck movement?
How quickly would a solution be found that took those truck movements off our roads?
And what of the containers transported to and from the Port that are empty?
If empty container parks were located at intermodal hubs close to Kewdale and Kwinana just imagine the fresh air we would all breath.
The problem with the High Street/Stirling Highway intersection isn’t that it is badly designed, it is that there are too many trucks going around it.
It is not a problem of infrastructure, it is a problem of planning.
If the questions of landside transport from Fremantle Port and overall car numbers in the area are not addressed then even the most spectacular corner at High Street will still be an environmental and public health disaster.
I have often wondered why Main roads WA has never simply realigned High Street lanes so that there would be two turning lanes for vehicles turning north onto Stirling Highway.
If one lane of eastward traffic on High Street was made into a compulsory turn left onto Stirling then traffic turning east from Stirling could move without stopping.
Is Main Roads’ intention to allow the situation to fester until residents will agree to any flea-brained, freeway-style solution in an attempt to escape the noise?
When the Perth Freight Link was being touted Main Roads WA finally admitted that it would facilitate a massive increase not only in truck numbers but in car traffic. We need serious public transport building in the southern suburbs to deal with cars.
That means extending the MetroNet link between Cockburn and Fremantle, constructing the South Street light rail line and replacing the Fremantle Traffic Bridge.
Building a new bridge would allow for an extra rail span across the river for freight trains and for the electrification of the container trains. Talking about working on the High Street/Stirling Highway intersection without dealing with those broader issues is the opposite of effective leadership.
The example before us all is the Perth Freight Network review of the early 2000s.
Infrastructure should come after the planning.
Colin Barnett failed that test miserably, I hope that the ALP can do better.