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I’ve been busy with various commitments, so I’ve finally decided to get back on the proverbial blog horse.

The recent discussion in the lead up to the WA State Election about public transport and particularly about the rail network is one that has interested me. I’ve found myself interested in the Labor policy called Metronet for many reasons, particularly because it mirrors many of the ideas I’ve had about the direction of public rail infrastructure in Perth for quite some time.

The point of this particular post is to look at the Airport Rail Links that both parties have promised. Both have promised spur lines from Bayswater Train Station off the Midland line that go down the Tonkin Highway. This minimises costs as it uses the existing road reserve – a highly practical outcome which few people will disagree about, I’m sure.

However, not long after the railway line crosses Great Eastern Highway, there is a divergence in party opinions. The Liberal Party has proposed a move eastward through some ill used bush areas east of Stanton Road. This track runs to a station nominally called Airport West just south of Brearley Avenue, before tunneling underneath the runways to a station in the middle of all the new terminals at the combined Domestic/International Terminal. The Tunnel would then continue on in the general direction of Forrestfield and High Wycombe, nominally called Airport East. The map is attached here.

As always, there are positives and negatives with the plan. The positives are little interruption to residents in the area (some businesses in the business park would be affected) and minimal land would have to be resumed from private holders. The big negative is tunneling – it’s never a cheap job, and negotiating something like that with both the Federal Government (who own the land) and the Perth Airport Corporation (who run the airports) is going to be a painful exercise. That’s before the airlines get involved and they’re already pretty nasty with the airport and the State Government (in any form) as it is.

The Labor Metronet plan which was released yesterday runs the airport line south alongside Tonkin Highway past Stanton Road. At Stanton Road, there is a station nominally called Redcliffe/Airport West. The line continues south past the end of the existing runway before curving around to the north to a terminal on Horrie Miller Drive called Perth Airport Station. The line continues eastward, underneath Abernethy Road and onto a station called Forrestfield/High Wycombe. The map and policy document is attached here.

The big positive here is almost no tunnelling. There may be a need for a bridge at Abernethy Road, given that the road is used extensively as a heavy truck route through to access Forrestfield, High Wycombe and surrounds, but I’m sure that has been accounted for in the costings. Again, consideration has been given for impacts on residents by running the tracks through road reserves and through bushland that is not really used anyway. The big concern I have with this plan is the future-proofing of it. Given the development of the A380 and the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, time will only tell if runways will need to be lengthened. Additionally, there have been regular discussions about adding a third runway to Perth Airport – this route by Labor may have to change or be scrapped depending on the location of this runway. I’m personally concerned about the location of the terminal as well. I understand the thinking behind it, but placing it in an area that is not currently within a terminal could be fraught with danger in terms of a good first impression of Perth for inbound travellers.

To conclude, both sides have good points on their proposals. Public transport will broadly be an election issue – however I’m not convinced that this particular line will be an election issue for most voters, with the exception of the seats that lie east of the airport (Forrestfield, etc).

I’d be interested to hear your views.

EDIT

I do need to thank Amanda Rainey for picking up an obvious error of mine. The picture on the WA Labor site (if you actually blow it up on a proper computer monitor, which is something I should have done) shows that the future runway is proposed to be between the new terminal and Abernethy Road. This does however mean that some tunneling would be required to get under the runway and could add to the costs of the build. To me, that also suggests that it would be more practical to tunnel under Abernethy Road as well.

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