The population of Perth is forecast to grow from 1.9 million to 3.5 million by 2050. This will place pressure on our transport system for both people and goods.
For the western suburbs, the movement of trucks in and out of Fremantle Port has become a critical issue. Trade through the port has grown by 70% in the past 10 years with the number of containers now at 720,000 a year.
Congestion and road safety are already serious problems in North Fremantle and along Port Beach Road and Curtin Avenue with trucks making up 30% of the 300,000 vehicles per day on those roads.
Doing nothing is not an option. The Roe 8 Highway extension in the southern suburbs, from the Freeway west through to Stock Rd, will take 5,000 trucks per day off existing suburban roads and also provide safer access to the Fiona Stanley Hospital precinct.
I fully appreciate that this project is environmentally sensitive, going as it does between lakes in the Beelier Wetlands. That is why both the State and Commonwealth environmental approvals laid down strict conditions around the design and construction of the road, including the part bridging of the road.
It has been suggested that an alternative is to build a new container port in Cockburn Sound. While this will have its own significant environmental issues, what is overlooked is that Roe 8 will be needed for both the existing port and any future port in Cockburn Sound.
An outer harbour will happen, but it is a massive project that is at least 15 years away and will initially be an overflow facility operating in tandem with the existing harbour in Fremantle.
For the western suburbs, a ‘do nothing’ approach to Roe 8 will inevitably mean more trucks avoiding the log-jam to the south by diverting to a northern route along Port Beach Road and Curtin Avenue.
The other proposed alternative is to use rail. This sounds attractive but it has limitations. At present 14% of containers go by rail, the highest rate of any Australian port. World’s best practice is 30%, which still leaves 70% of a growing number of containers going by truck.
Managing freight into Fremantle Port is an important and complex issue. There is no easy short term fix. Building Roe 8 is a necessary step.