KEVIN McQUOID is a retired former member of the Public Relations Institute of Australia who also used to teach at Edith Cowan University. At the beginning of this decade he put forward a plan for a connected railway system around the Perth metropolitan area. He says the then-opposition Labor party took great interest in his design and he pitched it to their transport spokesman Ken Travers. It’s no surprise then that his old plan looks almost exactly the same as Metronet, which he reckons could be a great tool to help stimulate Fremantle’s economy.
RECENT news items claim that Fremantle council is putting too much emphasis on green issues to the detriment of the city’s economy, with the local business community calling for a higher priority on commercial and infrastructure needs.
I believe a big part of the answer to these economic woes lies in how the Fremantle section of the Metronet Southern Circle Line is aligned through the city.
Some understanding of the background will put this into context.
In 2012 I proposed a mass transit scheme that the then-Labor opposition modified and branded as Metronet.
It was based on the creation of new Southern Circle and Northern Circle Lines within freeway and freight rail corridors, to go around inner metropolitan zones, integrate with existing Midland, Armadale, Joondalup and Fremantle Lines, and act as a framework for other transport options such as light rail.
It also proposed a new north-south, under-the-river line, from Stirling to Spearwood, but that did not end up in the final version.
I imagined a Southern Circle Line from Perth Station through to Bayswater, Perth Airport, Forrestfield, Wattle Grove, Thornlie, Jandakot, Yangebup, Spearwood and Coogee (within the existing freight rail corridor), before linking with the Fremantle to Perth Line at Fremantle Station and completing the circle back to Perth.
The Bayswater to Perth Airport section is now under construction and the Thornlie to Cockburn (Jandakot) section is about to commence – leaving Forrestfield to Kenwick, and Jandakot to Fremantle to come.
The current freight-rail line along the Fremantle foreshore is in the wrong location for high-frequency passenger trains to be of real value to the city.
I therefore proposed an underground line from the vicinity of North Coogee to Fremantle Station via Hampton Road, Wray Avenue, South Terrace and Market Street, with stations at appropriate locations.
The economy of the city would be greatly stimulated by large passenger numbers on an underground line, and the “action” around Perth Station, Perth Underground, Subiaco and Joondalup shows what could be expected to occur around each station.
The current Perth to Fremantle Train stops at Fremantle Station and the timetable has some 150 trains (arrivals and departures) on most days.
The advent of the Southern Circle Line could see that increase to 300 or more passenger trains per day, with Fremantle becoming “a through line” rather than “the end of the line”.
Metronet will continue to grow, making all parts of the metropolitan area more accessible to Fremantle residents – as well as making Fremantle more accessible to visitors –particularly to its own urban catchment area.
Fremantle is already one of our major visitor destinations and a direct link to Perth Airport, either way on a circular line, would boost tourist access to the city. Special events would also attract, and efficiently transport, vastly more numbers.
The drawback is that projects of this nature take time to plan and get under way, but past experience shows that formal commitment by government is a stimulant in itself.
Current decisions being made about Claremont, Bayswater, Forrestfield, and many other railway station precincts demonstrate this.
Locating the Southern Circle Line directly under the heart of the city would be a game-changer. It would connect Fremantle to the rest of the metropolitan area, reduce road congestion, reduce travel times, stimulate investment and create jobs.
It would also help take cars off the road, thereby enhancing Fremantle’s green credentials even further.
The McGowan government is unlikely to lose the next election, but politics is unpredictable. I wouldn’t waste any time getting plans locked into place.