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Study finds one third of containers empty

THE first definitive study of freight movements in the metropolitan area has found that nearly one third of all container movements are empty.

The study also found that 27 per cent of all container truck movements at north Fremantle involved empty trucks.

The findings of the study have highlighted both the challenges and the opportunities facing the Western Australian Government.

The Sinclair Knight Merz study estimates there are nearly 744,000 land container movements in the metropolitan area each year.

Of these, only 3.2 per cent are by rail.

The Government’s freight network strategy aims to lift that proportion to 30 per cent over the next decade.

One finding that will support this goal is that one third of container movements are between Fremantle and the Kewdale/Forrestfield area.

Fremantle Link Services, jointly owned by Toll Holdings and Patrick, has operated a rail shuttle service between Fremantle and Kewdale since January.

The Government plans to build a new rail loop and freight terminal at North Fremantle to improve the efficiency of rail freight.

It is also seeking to redevelop the Kewdale rail yards to make them more efficient.

This is likely to involve Pacific National, the major user of the Kewdale rail yards, redeveloping its existing facilities and Toll/Patrick (which happens to own Pacific National) developing an inland container terminal.

The Government’s plan also provides for land to be set aside at Kewdale for a third private rail operator to develop a rail freight terminal.

The freight study also found that nearly 30 per cent of freight movements are to O’Connor, Kwinana and the South West.

This could be seized on by critics of the Government’s recent decision to delete the Fremantle Eastern Bypass road reserve.

The bypass was originally designed to accommodate road freight between Fremantle and outlying industrial areas.

Planning and Infrastructure Minister Alannah MacTiernan said the Government was using a range of measures to accommodate increased freight movements rather than simply building more roads.

Chamber of Commerce and Industry director industry policy Bill Sashegyi has criticised the decision to delete the road reserve.

“While Planning Minister Alannah MacTiernan is banking on a substantial switch to rail, there is concern whether the rail option can be achieved economically on the scale required,” Mr Sashegyi said.

National Party transport spokesman Murray Criddle said the people of Fremantle had to prepare for “monster freight trains” passing through the city’s historic west end.

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