06/08/2015 - 15:54

Freo river tunnel ruled out

06/08/2015 - 15:54

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Transport Minister Dean Nalder said today the government was still working out how it would handle an expected doubling in truck movements around Fremantle, but has ruled out one option – sinking a tunnel under the Swan River.

Freo river tunnel ruled out
Transport Minister Dean Nalder

Transport Minister Dean Nalder said today the government was still working out how it would handle an expected doubling in truck movements around Fremantle, but has ruled out one option – sinking a tunnel under the Swan River.

“We have explored it,” Mr Nalder told a Committee for Economic Development of Australia forum today.

“I’ve wanted to look at every possible angle.”

However, the government concluded a tunnel under the river was not feasible because it would need to be 26 metres deep.

“When you are shifting freight, the gradient to get up the other side means the tunnel has to extend way out towards Leighton and it just became economically unviable unfortunately.”

Mr Nalder said the private sector consortia bidding to build stage 2 of the Perth Freight Link were still evaluating the possibility of a tunnel that would extend underneath White Gum Valley to Stirling Highway in East Fremantle.

This would be an alternative to upgrading Stock Road and the western end of Leach Highway.

Mr Nalder said that, despite the increased complexity in the project assessment, he was aiming to sign a contract for stage 2 of the Perth Freight Link by December, just one month later than originally planned.

He said he intended to indicate the preferred route for stage 2 in about six weeks’ time.

Stage 1 of the Freight Link project, which involves an extension of Roe Highway from Kwinana Freewayy to Stock Road, is expected to proceed sooner.

Mr Nalder insisted the Perth Freight Link project made sense, irrespective of what happened at Fremantle harbour.

Critics have suggested the government should adapt its freight planning to take account of the likely construction of an ‘outer harbour’ at Cockburn Sound.

Mr Nalder said it would take at least 10 years to develop an outer harbour, and in the meantime there would be a doubling of truck movements at Fremantle to 6,000 per day.

He said the environmental assessment for the outer harbour would take a minimum of three years and the construction would take six or seven years.

Kwinana Industries Council director Chris Oughton told the CEDA forum the advice he had received from Fremantle Ports was that the outer harbour could be operational in five years, taking account of the environmental assessment and planning work done by previous governments.

Mr Nalder said he supported the proposed outer harbour but was non-committal when asked about its likely timing.

“I think we have 15 years of capacity left in the inner harbour, which means that if it takes at least 10 years to get built, we need to get moving, but I don’t want to put a finite time on that.”

Mr Nalder said the outer harbour was likely to be a ‘spillover’ facility that would add to capacity at the inner harbour.

He acknowledged some debate about whether the inner harbour could eventually be closed, but said even if that was the case, the Freight Link project still made sense.

“If you were to remove the inner harbour out of Fremantle, you will not be replacing it with lawn,” Mr Nalder said.

“It will be high density residential and commercial, and the number I’ve heard is that there will be up to 20,000 additional people, and I think that will be quite dynamic for Fremantle.”

He said the extra residents would benefit from the upgraded road network.

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