Perth may be the fourth largest city in Australia, but it is growing fast enough to risk ending up with nearly half of the most congested roads in the country. Although it is not likely to face this prospect for another 15 years, the city’s transport officials have already set about trying to avoid it. Last spring, they awarded a AUD$1.2 billion contract to a joint-venture between Salini Impregilo and local partner NRW to extend Perth’s public transport network.
The Forrestfield-Airport Link project will deliver a new rail line to the suburbs in the eastern foothills of Perth. It will start from the existing Midland Line near the suburb of Bayswater close to the Perth Central Business District (CBD), pass through the suburb of Belmont, arrive at Perth Airport and then head towards Forrestfield in the Shire of Kalamunda. In brief, the Forrestfield-Airport Link will be 8.5 kilometres long and have three stations: Forrestfield, Redcliff and Airport Central at the international airport. It will lead to the creation of up to 3,000 parking spaces across both the Redcliff and Forrestfield stations as well as the expansion of bus-feeder services, especially at its final stop in Forrestfield. The project will be commissioned in 2020.
«The Forrestfield-Airport Link …will service future projected growth of residential and business developments planned along the rail route,» the state’s premier, Colin Barnett, said in a statement after a ceremony in early November marking the start of construction. «This is a landmark project for Western Australia,» the state’s transport minister, Bill Marmion, told reporters attending the event. Marmion’s department says the airport rail link will help the city keep its high standard of living as its population grows from about 2 million to 3.5 million in 2030. «Construction of the rail line is an important step in improving public transport in Perth's eastern suburbs and reducing congestion in the metropolitan area,» Marmion said.
The rail link will be built where five of the 11 worst congested road corridors in Australia are expected to be by 2031, according to analysis conducted by Infrastructure Australia. They include the Tonkin, Graham Farmer and Leach highways.
But traffic is already a problem for Perth, costing an estimated AUD$2 billion a year. «It is clear that planning Perth’s transport future now is a smart financial decision, essential to keeping our economy and city moving for generations to come,» reads a summary of the “Transport @ 3.5 Million” plan. Transport officials have already quantified the benefits that the rail link will have on the lives of commuters. By 2030, it should be serving 29,000 passenger trips every day, helping reduce congestion as well as air pollution. This is equivalent to taking 9,000 and 15,000 vehicles off the road every day, reducing as a consequence the amount of CO2 emitted by daily traffic.
Forrestfield residents will be able to travel to the CBD in 20 minutes rather than the usual 45 minutes by car at peak hour. Those elsewhere in Kalamunda will hale their usual 70-minute commute thanks to an improved bus-feeder network connected to the last stop at Forrestfield Station.
Offering better access to the city centre is expected to help create jobs and improve services in Forrestfield. The airport will also no longer act as an obstacle that separates Forrestfield and Kalamunda from the rest of the city.
Construction will bring an immediate boost to the economy by creating around 2,000 jobs throughout the life of the project.
Since work on the Forrestfield-Airport Link will be mostly underground, its impact on the environment will be minimal.
Salini Impregilo and NRW will be deploying two tunnel-boring machines (TBMs), each one boring a tunnel parallel to the other for virtually the entire length of the line.