Rail link opponents angry at the lack of consultation

WILL the Mandurah to Perth rail line down the Kwinana Freeway be a blight on the Swan River foreshore or a boon for the cities of Rockingham and Mandurah?

The $1.2 billion rail link will run down the freeway, around the front of the proposed Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre, turn up William Street before disappearing into a tunnel under the city to reappear and link with the northern rail line.

It will give the CBD three new railway stations – one near the convention centre, one under-ground between St Georges Terrace and Wellington Street and one between Milligan and Fitz-gerald streets, where the southern line will connect with the northern one.

Stations also are proposed for Mandurah, Rockingham, the corner of Beeliar Drive, Armadale Road and the freeway, the Murdoch Park’n’Ride, Leach Highway and Canning Bridge.

It is expected the will be completed in late 2006.

The Court Government proposed a more than $1 billion Mandurah to Perth rail service running via Kenwick onto the existing Armadale line, with services to Rockingham to commence in mid-2005.

It also proposed a loop line through the centre of Rockingham.

Former Transport Minister Murray Criddle said the Kenwick routing had been chosen, even though the Mandurah to Perth trip would be 12 minutes longer, because that was where the major passenger catchments were.

“There is no population catchment along the first 11 kilometres of the route if you go down the freeway,” Mr Criddle said.

“The rail line needs patronage to be feasible.”

Mr Criddle said the then WA Government had been considering sinking Riverside Drive to provide a stronger link between the city and the Swan River.

Perth Lord Mayor Peter Nattrass said the Government’s current proposal would have a negative effect on Perth.

“The city is blessed with natural assets – its river and the river foreshore. This rail link will provide a further barrier that we will regret, like Sydney regrets its Cahill Expressway through Circular Quay,” Dr Nattrass said.

He said the rail line would have a huge impact on council’s plans to beautify the Swan River Foreshore between William and Barrack streets.

Dr Nattrass said he was angry about the lack of consultation from the Government over the proposal, although he had since met with Infrastructure Minister Alannah MacTiernan and she had agreed to address council’s concerns.

“If our issues are not addressed, council will be resisting the rail line as strongly as possible,” he said.

“One of our overriding roles is to ensure the pressures of progress don’t override the beauty of the city.”

However, Murdoch University associate professor in Sustainable Settlements, Jeff Kenworthy, said the aesthetic arguments against the rail line were “stupid”.

“We’d have to be talking about sinking Riverside Drive to get rid of the damage that’s already been done there. We’re talking about a narrow alignment of rail for a few hundred metres.”

Professor Kenworthy said the Government’s plan could have the same impact on the southern suburbs as the northern line had on areas such as Joondalup.

“The critical issue to understand is that if we want to wean Perth off the car we need a spine of quality public transport,” he said.

Real Estate Institute of WA public affairs director Lino Iachomella said the rail line would spark new development along its route, particularly to the south towards Rockingham.

“The northern rail line gave Joondalup a lot more impetus, particularly in the areas of community and business development. There is every likelihood that will be repeated in the southern suburbs,” he said.

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