The article below was written by Fremantle Road to Rail activist Barry Healy:
Fremantle is emerging as a key battle ground between between a Liberal-National state government committed building freeways at any cost; and a community that wants to see better public transport and the return of freight on rail.
Container movements at Fremantle Port are predicted to double by 2020, yet the percentage being carried to port by train has declined from 17% in 2007 to 11% in 2011 and is predicted to dwindle down to 8.5% by 2012.
If the Liberal-National coalition had stuck with the previous Labor government's plan to get 30% of containers on to rail 2013 it would have taken so many trucks off the road that no new roads would be required. Instead they are planning a series of projects that will cost well over $1 billion and carve a freeway through the Beeliar wetlands south of Fremantle.
As if to generate the truck generate the truck traffic to generate their freeways, they are also planning to close over 720 kilometres of regional railway lines too. Meanwhile their recently released 'Public Transport 2031' draft plan doesn't propose any significant new passenger infrastructure for the Fremantle region.
Previous road building projects have provoked a defensive response, pitting suburb against suburb as people seek to make sure the new road does not go through their own backyard. To head this off a group of residents formed the Fremantle Road to Rail (R2R) campaign. Beginning with a public launch in August that attracted over 80 people, it has since grown into a vibrant and diverse community group.
On September 17 R2R organised a rally of 80 people outside the Town Hall in response to a government decision to disregard both the result of its own bogus "community consultation" process and a resolution of Fremantle Council regarding a proposed upgrade to the intersection of High St and Stirling Highway.
Speakers were Sue Ellery (ALP MLC), Annolies Truman (Socialist Alliance member and founder of R2R), Lynn MacLaren (Greens MLC and transport spokesperson), Fremantle Mayor Brad Pettitt and well-known WA public transport advocate Professor Peter Newman.
Rally chair and Fremantle councillor Sam Wainwright pointed out that the cost of the proposed road works on this one intersection would pay for the repair of all the regional rail lines threatened with closure.
With a state election looming in early 2013 the R2R will be working hard to make sure the the state government pays a heavy price for its destructive transport polices and to argue for the desperately needed expansion of rail freight and public transport infrastructure.