Click here to read “The key themes and issues of WA Transport 2012 Part 1“.
All major infrastructure projects require significant collaboration between various levels of government, the community and infrastructure users. The activities of Main Roads WA, the largest geographically spread road agency in the world, highlight the collaboration and planning needed for major road infrastructure. Doug Morgan (Main Roads WA) provided a detailed overview of Main Road’s investment in capital works and maintenance across the state to finish with an impressive vision of the flyover for the $1bn Gateway WA Project Master Plan. These works were set in the context of WA representing a third of construction works in Australia ($31b by 2015) and having the highest vehicle ownership in Australia. Add to this that congestion is forecast to cost Perth over $2bn and these statistics themselves could lead to a whole new conference in itself.
Doug mentioned the opportunities for smart technology but noted that one of the major factors in reducing congestion is changing travelling behaviour and that a lot of work was still needed in that regard. We were later joined by Dr George Crisp, WA Chair, Doctors for the Environment Australia (DEA) who went beyond the traditional costs of congestion to explore the health and environmental issues of increased road traffic and climate change.
5. INNOVATION and REGIONAL INTEGRATION
The Mid-West represents an area larger than Victoria and with $10bn earmarked in future developments highlights the importance of regional centres to the vitality of the State as a whole. In discussing Geraldton City Council’s vision, Mark Atkinson highlighted the need for innovation and cooperation between various levels of government and stakeholders. Pointing out that whilst revenue for State and Federal Governments comes out of the mines, the cost to local communities from mine traffic, especially in terms of road renewals is difficult to reconcile. In order to “join the dots between existing centres and mines”, Mark stressed the need for a standard gauge network across WA. Given the expected 50% growth in rail demand for the Mid-West, action, investment and innovation was needed sooner rather than later.
Collene Longmore (RDA Pilbara) provided a comprehensive overview of the Pilbara: the star of Western Australia’s stellar economic performance. Building on Mark’s call for inter-governmental cooperation, she referred to the respected futurist Brian Haratsis, of Macroplan, who believes that an integrated North West economy rather than regionalised economies is what is needed to propel the region to 2020 and beyond. Collene continued that a cooperative North West alliance between the Pilbara, Kimberley and Mid West will deliver a number of strategic benefits, including:
Improved linkages and connectivity between towns from Geraldton to Broome;
Supporting major private investment in urban infrastructure and amenity;
Supporting staged/phased project construction and service delivery (floating workforce);
Encouraging specialist hubs to be used as international platforms e.g. freight and logistics/health (Port Hedland), tertiary education/transport (Karratha), specialised FIFO services (Geraldton)
6. ENGAGEMENT, SAFETY and the ENVIRONMENT
WA is not just a unique story about iron-ore – its grain belt produces around 40% of the nation’s grain, about 95% of which is exported. Despite the June report recommending the Government keep the tier three rail network open until the end of 2014 to allow grain handler CBH to assess its value – earlier that day, the Transport Minister had announced his decision to close the tier 3 rail lines servicing the grain industry. As you imagine, discussions on the panel had a revitalized call for better cooperation between government, industry and the local communities.
Jane Fuchsbichler (Wheatbelt Railway Retention Alliance) detailed the poor condition of the wheatbelt’s road network to highlight the need in keep the rail network running. Given that the majority of roads were 50year old and not built to withstand the type of truck and truck loading travelling through to mines sites, all panellists agreed that the solution to grain was in a competitively priced mix of road and rail transport. Click here to hear the ABC’s interview with Jane later that day
When asking the panellists for a concluding summary, it was fitting that Rebekah Burges (RDA Wheatbelt) highlighted the need for a whole of region freight strategy to ensure the safety of local communities and the economic viability of the area.
We certainly look forward to keeping up to date with developments across the truly unique and award-winning State!