11/02/2003 - 21:00

State Scene - Ball in PCC’s court

11/02/2003 - 21:00


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SOMETHING resembling a Mexican stand-off appears to have developed between Perth City Council (PCC) and Planning Minister Alannah MacTiernan, just when they should be in close contact. The PCC, for more than a year, has made it clear that it believed M

SOMETHING resembling a Mexican stand-off appears to have developed between Perth City Council (PCC) and Planning Minister Alannah MacTiernan, just when they should be in close contact.

The PCC, for more than a year, has made it clear that it believed Ms MacTiernan’s plan to run the Mandurah to Joondalup railway line beneath William Street, which continues below the Perth to Fremantle rail lines and surfaces at the intersection of Lake and Roe streets, missed a golden opportunity to reunite the CBD and Northbridge.

The PCC contended the MacTiernan plan presented a golden opportunity to concurrently sink the Perth to Fremantle line from the Horseshoe Bridge to the Mitchell Freeway so the CBD and Northbridge became one.

So strongly did some PCC councillors feel about this that a special railway committee of six councillors was convened.

That committee, chaired by Councillor Bert Tudori, seconded several experts, including architect planner Ralph Stanton and University of WA Emeritus Professor Martyn Webb.

And a 13-member expert study that included the city’s planning director Max Hipkins, five members of engineering firm, Halliburton KBR, and architects Graham Taylor and Grayam Sandover was added.

It is hard to recall the last time so many capable experts focused their minds upon the burning question of ridding Perth of the derelict railway yard that splits the CBD from Northbridge.

The Tudori Committee, as well as recommending sinking of the Perth to Fremantle line, envisages redeveloping the land above with a blend of commercial and civic facilities, including parkland.

It is worth recalling that the first time the idea of undergrounding the Perth to Fremantle line was seriously mooted was in 1911, when the State Government’s assistant architect, William Hardwick, strongly lobbied for it.

But 92 years on still nothing.

Money has been spent on a river foreshore bell tower, CBD street widenings and narrowings, a 1.2 kilometre tunnel beneath Northbridge, and central Subiaco has been revitalised by rail line sinking.

But for some inexplicable reason Perth CBD’s ugliest stretch of real estate keeps on keeping on.

It is therefore no exaggeration to say that the Tudori Report’s central proposal, if adopted, would have as dramatic an impact upon Perth as construction of the Narrows Bridge had in the late 1950s.

But the report went further than simply presenting a wish list.

It also proposed that the PCC actually dug into its own deep pockets to help bankroll the sinking of the Perth to Fremantle line.

At page 51 it called on the State Government to become a partner with the PCC “to establish a joint fundraising committee or agency”.

“This report is based on the proposition that if the PCC, having itself explored and agreed in principle to make a substantial contribution to the costs of undergrounding, the Government will in turn make an in-principle commitment to vest in the PCC the whole or such part of the Crown land west of the railway station and bound by Roe and Wellington streets commensurate with the council’s financial contribution to the project,” it says.

In other words the PCC will pay to sink the Perth to Fremantle line in exchange for the land above.

The PCC also wants the Government’s support in negotiations with the owners of the now defunct Perth Entertainment Centre, Seven Entertainment Ltd, so the two hectares upon which the centre stands could be incorporated into a far-sighted central CBD redevelopment project.

These are long overdue propositions that ensure the Perth to Fremantle line is at long last put out of sight.

State Scene has spoken to sources that say this means the PCC needs to commit to spending about $60 million, after which it would become owner of the entire railway yard.

Thankfully Ms MacTiernan also hasn’t been sitting on her hands since announcing her Mandurah to Joondalup plan.

In a hard-hitting letter to

WA Business News outlining her views on all this she said if the PCC wanted the Perth to Fremantle line sunk it could undertake the job in exchange for the land above.

All the PCC had to do was agree to cover the cost of sinking that line and also the segment of Ms MacTiernan’s proposed Mandurah to Joondalup line between a Lake Street portal to the Mitchell Freeway.

In other words the plan outlined in the Tudori Report is similar to Ms MacTiernan’s offer.

“I have also made it clear that, when we go to request for proposals, all options would be considered,” Ms MacTiernan adds.

That seems to suggest she expects more than just the PCC to come forward offering to outlay $60 million or so on redeveloping the central CBD.

It is no secret a deep-pocketed Asian investment group is in contact with a Perth businessman who is keen to get on with re-developing the railway yards.

That means the sooner the PCC gets in contact with Ms MacTiernan to put its case the greater the chance of it becoming reality.

This looks like one for the Lord Mayor, so come on Dr Peter Nattrass.




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