The 2014-15 Federal Budget is devoid of any spending on mass transit infrastructure – and instead proposes to spend large amounts of money on roads, some of which are actually not needed.
This is the view of Jemma Green, Senior Research Fellow at Curtin University Sustainability Policy (CUSP) Institute.
Writing for The Conversation Ms Green said that whilst roads obviously need to be maintained and built, at the expense of the kind of infrastructure that allows cities to operate efficiently and grow is a material omission. Congestion is costing cities billions of dollars each year.
A far more pressing issue in Perth right now is the need for funding for the light-rail – Metro Area Express (Peter Newman wrote about this for The Conversation last year). This was a WA State (Liberal) Government promise for delivery 2018, which, following WA’s credit downgrading from AAA to AA- in 2013, prompted this to be delayed to 2022. Meanwhile all the other infrastructure programmes remain prioritised (stadia, Elizabeth Quay, and the road programmes).
Research at Curtin has shown how up to 60% of the light rail can be funded using a value capture method. This is a system of putting aside windfall taxation revenues (stamp duty, capital gains taxes, rates) received as a result of building the rail – land values go up because of it. This innovative funding approach is yet to be tried in Australia (has been in other parts of the world), and in a budget constrained climate, could allow Australia to really get the infrastructure it needs.
The proposal to build a Perth Freight Link appears to lack detailed business case assessments and is a bizarre attempt at putting in expensive infrastructure that will create more issues than it solves. It will increase the capacity of the Fremantle Port when the surrounding residential areas cannot withstand further heavy traffic imposts.
A far better idea to deal with the growth projections is to relocate the Fremantle Port to James Point in Kwinana. This will allow for the realisation of both the Fremantle City in terms of jobs and residences and at the same time the growth in activity in the port. The Perth Freight link is trying to solve the problem of port access when what is really needed is a new port in Kwinana. Then the emphasis could be moving containers at least in part via rail with the Kwinana to Kewdale Link as well as a Roe Highway Stage 8 extension following the existing rail line. This approach would also have far fewer environmental impacts than the Perth Freight Link, and be located closer to Latitude 31 – a new industrial precinct.