There is no shortage of infrastructure needs in WA as the state emerges from a period of recession seeking to strengthen and diversify our economy.
For example, there is a well-established need for a new rail and road bridge across the Swan River in Fremantle.
This was identified by the previous Carpenter/Gallop government, which made a Budget provision of more than $80 million for the work. That funding was removed by the Barnett government.
A new bridge is both a matter of port productivity and proper risk management, as engineering studies have shown the old bridge, constructed in 1939, is well past its ‘best before’ date and could be made unusable in the event of a ship collision.
A road and rail bridge for the 21st century provides the opportunity to duplicate the rail capacity, which means that freight trains would no longer be subject to a scheduling conflict with passenger trains. This would enable further increases in the proportion of freight-on-rail over time with a corresponding reduction in truck freight. Under the WA Labor government we have already seen the proportion of rail freight grow from 9% to above 17%, but studies suggest that 30% is possible with the right infrastructure.
Under the former federal Labor government the National Port Strategy emphasised the importance of prioritising transport infrastructure that serves our ports. That focus has been lost under the Abbott/Turnbull/Morrison government, which has failed to support key infrastructure and neglected to address the crisis in Australian shipping.
Finally, a new bridge could provide the opportunity to use the old bridge as a distinctively Freo community link: a focus of active transport and other kinds of creative community use. Fremantle’s own ‘high line’ would continue the port city’s tradition as a working port with a strong focus on Indigenous heritage, tourism, and creative industries.