Transport Minister Dean Nalder was again promoting the Freight Link project today.

Nalder makes fresh freight link pitch

Friday, 18 March, 2016 - 15:01

Transport Minister Dean Nalder has highlighted the social benefits of Roe 8 and touted the minimal environmental impact of the project at a lunch today, adding that the link would need to be built regardless of any move to an outer harbour.

Mr Nalder said the government had taken some time out of the debate around the project to ensure it was best able to communicate the case in favour.

Speaking to an audience of Fremantle Chamber of Commerce members, he said the government remained convinced of the merits of the $1.6 billion-plus project.

Key social benefits of the link included reducing pressure on intersections near Fiona Stanley Hospital and easier access into the health precinct at Murdoch, Mr Nalder said, with the existing intersections on South Street projected to fail in five years.

More than 85 per cent of the estimated benefit would be for commuters, he said, with passenger vehicles to represent 90 per cent of traffic movements.

The result would be improved amenity.

The link was estimated to use only six hectares of the Beeliar Wetlands, about 0.5 per cent of the total area, compared with 100ha of sandy area and 60ha of degraded bushland, including a former rubbish tip, Mr Nalder said.

It would run on an existing reserve for power lines, and be lifted above ground to avoid damage to the wetlands and improve movement for local fauna.

Additionally, the government would buy 500ha of bushland on the coast as an offset.

An appeal against a Supreme Court ruling regarding environmental approval was under way, while a new approval process could take 13 months, he said.

Outer harbour

Mr Nalder also weighed in on speculation that the project would not be needed if there was a move to an outer harbour development.

He said if the government assumed an immediate move to a new harbour, the cost benefit ratio would fall only 0.1 points to 2.8.

That means that the state would receive three times the cost of the project in benefits.

There was a series of improvements that could be made to Fremantle’s existing harbour, too, that would increase efficiency for a fraction of the cost of an outer harbour.

Those projects would cost between $200 million and $300 million, Mr Nalder said, although he did not elaborate on what such projects might involve.

An outer harbour development would cost between $5 billion and $6 billion, he said, and would take 10 years for first container movements if work started immediately, while a full shift of operations would take at least five years further.

Ultimately, reaching the limit of usage at the port would depend on community expectations.

The government had explored almost two dozen ways of crossing the Swan River from phase two of the Perth Freight Link project into Fremantle, although modelling suggested there was a possibility the existing bridge would be sufficient.

Additionally, Mr Nalder said the state government had been exploring value capture to fund projects in the future, an idea highlighted by Business News last month.

That would mean that private landowners who reaped windfall capital gains from infrastructure projects would contribute part of the cost over time, rather than the existing sole reliance on general taxpayers.

Such programs were still some years away and were not policy, he said.