Saffioti focused on amenity, industry

31/07/2019 - 13:50

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The state government is making solid progress on its congestion busting, industry boosting infrastructure rollout.

Saffioti focused on amenity, industry
Rita Saffioti says the state government is making solid progress on its commitment to reducing congestion around Fremantle. Photo: Gabriel Oliveira

The state government is making solid progress on its congestion busting, industry boosting infrastructure rollout.

Midway through Western Australia’s biggest-ever transport infrastructure spend, Planning and Transport Minister Rita Saffioti is facing a significant challenge in getting the federal government to come along for the ride.

Updating the McGowan government’s progress on its key transport infrastructure commitments – which include more than $8 billion of spending over the next four to six years on new roads and rail – Ms Saffioti said gaining Commonwealth support loomed as one of the biggest hurdles to delivery.

She said her ambitious transport vision, developed while in opposition to the then Barnett government, was designed to deliver positive outcomes on many fronts by increasing vibrancy and density around transport links, creating easier ways to get around the city, and providing a handy boost for a construction industry reeling from a resources-related downturn.

“In the last years of opposition I was cognisant of the fact that there was a lack of a pipeline of work for industry, for both road and rail,” Ms Saffioti told a recent Business News Policy Briefing breakfast event.

“It was my opinion that we needed to create a level of construction to stop the exodus of talent to other states … industry was concerned there was insufficient work in the pipeline to retain the necessary skills in WA.

“That’s why, early on, we created a pipeline of investment that has continued to expand.”

Days after the Business News event, Ms Saffioti unveiled the route for the long-awaited Morley to Ellenbrook train line, a 21-kilometre spur off the existing Midland train line designed to remove around 10,000 daily car trips from northern suburbs road networks by 2031 and halve travel time from Ellenbrook to the central city.

The Ellenbrook line is a key component of the McGowan government’s Metronet program, a commitment covering six projects totalling 72km of new rail lines, which will cost around $4.2 billion to construct.

Ms Saffioti said procurement was also well advanced for two other major components of Metronet – the Yanchep rail extension and the Thornlie-Cockburn link.

As well as new train lines, the Metronet commitment is a boost to local manufacturing, with a preferred proponent to create a railcar assembly plant in Midland expected to be announced in coming months.

A request for proposals campaign for a new train station at Bayswater, as well as a new Bayswater rail bridge, was released in April and will be awarded later this year, while Ms Saffioti said significant progress was also being made on a rail extension to Byford, a new Midland train station, and level crossing removals throughout Perth.

Ms Saffioti said the state government had also committed $4.1 billion to upgrading WA roads, as a congestion-busting initiative across the metropolitan area and to boost connectivity and accessibility in key regional locations.

But while she described the spending as unprecedented for a WA state government, Ms Saffioti revealed she had concerns while planning the projects that they may not be big enough to be attractive for industry compared with the gigantic infrastructure commitments of NSW and Victoria.

A recent Deloitte Access Economics report showed the NSW government had committed to spend $56 billion on roads and rail projects over the next four years.

Victoria’s spending commitments are just as sizeable, Deloitte said, with $29 billion of transport projects under construction and a further $54 billion of work in the planning phase.

“In comparison to other states, some of our projects are somewhat minnows,” Ms Saffioti said.

“Initially I had some concerns that these size projects would not attract market interest, given what was happening in other states.

“But the feedback I am getting from industry is that these size projects are the right size to appropriately acknowledge and share risk, and also achieve value for money.”

Ms Saffioti told the forum the relative size of WA’s infrastructure projects was also looming as a challenge to secure federal funding, with the massive scope of the works in other states luring more Commonwealth commitments.

In recent days, the state government stepped up its campaign for more federal funding, challenging the Morrison government to make good on its election promises to WA.

Ms Saffioti said specific projects needing more Commonwealth attention included a new train station at Lakelands, an upgrade of Erindale Road, and the widening of the Mitchell Freeway from Hodges Drive to Hepburn Avenue.

“The costs of these projects were not properly identified in the federal campaign,” Ms Saffioti said.

“For example, one of these projects was costed at $130 million, and the federal government has allocated $2 million to that project.

“We are working with the federal government to increase their contribution so we can deliver these types of projects.”

As well as boosting local industry, Ms Saffioti said the state government’s measure of success for its infrastructure upgrades would be increased liveability in transport-oriented precincts around the city.

Detailed planning is under way to ensure surrounding areas of train stations become higher-density hubs, providing more housing choice in important locations around Perth.

“Our plan for the state transport network will help drive density and urbanisation around public transport nodes and will ensure people have a number of choices on how they access work, education and other activities – this is the foundation of the Metronet vision,” Ms Saffioti said.

“While there is a clear focus on the design, funding and delivery of the infrastructure, the planning and delivery of integrated station precincts has been just as critical to the Metronet plan.

“This job-creating program will see transport investment as a catalyst for land use change in more than 5,000 hectares within walking distance of new stations.

“Creating these new urban precincts around these stations will allow easy access to walking and cycling, will boost commercial and recreational opportunities and in many instances will help support small businesses operating in these areas.”

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