Rail routes have mixed impact on freight shift

THE construction of the South West Metropolitan Railway line between Mandurah and Perth is expected to attract more than 28,000 users every weekday, according to statistics released by the State Government.

However it’s not known whether the new rail line will deliver any real relief to the freight industry, which sits bumper to bumper with peak hour traffic in and out of the city.

One transport industry analyst said the completion of the northern suburbs line didn’t register in terms of pedestrian traffic in the city and the number of cars on the road.

“If you look at the indicators for the city the northern suburbs railway didn’t make a pimple,” he said.

“If you look at the number of people on the streets, you can’t see any impact.

“I think it took people out of buses and put them on the train.”

It’s expected that the new south-west metropolitan railway will produce similar results, he said.

“We’re one of the few countries in the world that is building [new] heavy rail.”

The specific issues Perth is facing in relation to providing adequate infrastructure for freight are found within the history of the settlement.

“We’re quite different from other cities in that we developed at a time in history, largely post WWII, when densities were very low,” the analyst said.

“When you look at other cities pushing to get more freight on rail, their densities are higher.

“If you look at the concentration of port-related activity, once you’re out of Fremantle it’s very spread out.”

The big distances between freight hubs in the metropolitan area means rail solutions require added infrastructure, which translates into added costs.

“The Government is trying to get rail freight up to 30 per cent,” the analyst said.

“Irrespective of what it is, [that figure] is just crazy.

“We’ve got to face facts; we are a low density city and the bulk of goods are moved by road.”

The solution would be controlled access routes dedicated to freight, he said.

“We’ve got to make sure there are truck routes with controlled access. Probably the answer is smaller roads with controlled access,” the analyst said.

“There’s just a lot of traffic on the roads the trucks are on.”

The problems associated with sharing the roads with cars increases the cost of moving freight around WA’s 146,928 kilometres of road.

Riverton MLA Tony McRae is chairing the local impact committee in close communication with local councils and community affected by the freight review.

Mr McRae said he was surprised this important issue had not attracted more attention from the electronic media.

“WA freight movement relies overwhelmingly on road freight, it’s typical of our love of cars and roads,” he said.

“The serious pressure in on the roads.

“There’s some big pressure in and around the Freeway north and south.

“There’s growing pressure on Leach Highway and on the roads out of Canning Vale.”

To understand the real impact of freight on our road infrastructure it was important to look at the total volume shift at the largest single point source to point source, he said.

“That’s between Canning Vale and Kewdale. Kewdale is the major bulk handling point and Canning Vale has the major warehouse distribution centre,” Mr McRae said.

“Canning Vale is one of the most significant food stuff and retail distribution centres, and it’s also a major economic cog.”

The community issues in these areas are the result of mid-level suburban densities and growing traffic volumes, including freight.

Despite all the recommendations of the second Freight Review the number of trucks is not likely to decrease on our existing traffic arteries.

For many communities the issue is one of management and making improvements to protect local amenities, while major infrastructure such as the Roe Highway stage 7 and the Leighton Loop are under construction.

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