The Fremantle Chamber of Commerce recognises and appreciates the efforts of The Fremantle Bridges Alliance, and all involved to listen to stakeholder feedback and address initial concerns with the Fremantle Bridge proposal.

The Chamber recognises this is a complex project, with competing constraints that will have both short term and long-term implications for Fremantle.

The Chamber is keen to ensure that in the selection of the final preferred alignment options, that the criteria for decision making is future focused and is based on providing a gateway in to Fremantle, rather than away from Fremantle, takes into consideration the broader planning context as much as is currently feasible and in the short-term ensures any local business impact is minimised, or compensated.

It is our understanding from the majority of Chamber members, that there is a preference for either option one and two, which would keep infrastructure to the West, result in overall transport infrastructure being closer together and enable space for urban landscaping and design along the southern bank. Options one, two and three also facilitate possibly retaining a portion of the existing Fremantle bridge and the historic Ferry Capstan site. Considered use, access and ongoing maintenance of these structures is important to articulate in the design phase if these options are selected.

It is acknowledged by many members that option four provides for innovative design and heritage interpretation of a completely new bridge, provides more opportunity for urban design and use of Beach St and the Northern bank. This option also has a significantly shorter construction time and with lower cost, has the potential to deliver a better funded design solution for the future. However, the loss of access of transport into Fremantle for a full two-year period is a significant hurdle with no solution presented with this option.

Option three has benefit maintaining existing traffic flows throughout the project, but it essentially diverts traffic away from Fremantle in the long term. It also has a significantly greater impact on the Northbank residents, The Naval Store and the South Bank area around the Container bow.

The Chamber is keen to ensure the voice of its members and local community is captured and incorporated throughout the community consultation process. This part is critical to the success of the project and ensuring the infrastructure is positioned well into Fremantle’s future.

We are also keen to explore the preservation of heritage options (such as the Ferry Capstan) and better links down to Beach St, allowing better planning for traffic and movement between our core local communities, and consideration for passengers, pedestrians and cyclists.

Wherever possible, the Chamber also requests that greater thought be given to the overall regional planning context, and in turn that the preservation of connection between our high profile and engaged local community centres of North Fremantle, the George St Precinct and the heart of Fremantle remain the absolute priority. The fabric of what makes these communities successful isn’t easily replicated or able to be artificially created, and preservation of their unique characteristics needs to be consistently front of mind.

The Chamber also encourages the creation of a local content policy by the Fremantle Bridges Alliance and encourages attendance at the Chamber’s Local Procurement Day on 8 June to enable local marine, trade and service businesses attending to hear more about the opportunities that may arise from this project.

What is the Swan River Crossings Project:

The Swan River Crossings Project replaces the Fremantle Traffic Bridge and will increase passenger and freight rail capacity, make a significant improvement for road and river safety and provide improved infrastructure for local cyclists and other local pedestrian facilities. Construction of the bridge is expected to commence in late 2021.

The Project is a joint funded project by both the Federal and State governments, each contributing $115 million.

Currently, there are only two bridge crossings for vehicles and pedestrians travelling over the Swan River at the Fremantle Harbour.

The project is addressing the need to replace the current bridge that was originally constructed in 1939, which has significantly deteriorated in condition, design standards and is at the risk of a vessel strike with its current navigational clearance.

Objective:

In summary, the project objectives are:

  • Replace the current Fremantle Traffic Bridge
  • Increase passenger and freight efficiency, productivity and rail capacity
  • Improve the connection for pedestrians and cyclists crossing over the Swan River and travelling to North Fremantle Train Station
  • Realise fully the economic, social and environmental responsibility opportunities
  • Improve infrastructure amenities and provide a proud sense of place for the local and wider community, tourists and road users

Work Done to Date:

Work started on the Pre-Development phase of the project in mid-2019 and Main Roads released a single alignment option with a new bridge constructed to the East of the existing bridge alignment, and a new freight bridge. This was met with significant community outrage, particularly for the Northbank residents in North Fremantle and the Fremantle design community. In August 2020, Main Roads then initiated a broader engagement project.

Stakeholder and community forums were also held in October and November last year and the Chamber was involved through a consultation session with our Development and Infrastructure Community, and representation at two full day stakeholder engagement sessions facilitated by Nicole Lockwood.

This consultation saw the creation of a project Alliance and four new bridge alignment options developed by the Alliance – including three options with the alignment to the West, rather than the East as per the initial proposal by Main Roads.

All four options have gone through an alignment options assessment, to ensure all options can move forward to the concept design phase. Community and stakeholder feedback will be needed to finalise the options assessment and form a recommendation on what bridge alignment option to progress with.

On Wednesday May 26, the Chamber engaged the Fremantle Bridges Alliance to present to our D&I and Small Business & Retail Committee, a Swan River Crossings project update, highlighting community and industry consultation to date, an outline of the the four bridge alignment options and a snapshot of community consultation results so far.

Important to note is that the project is currently seeking feedback on bridge alignment only and not on design, the design consultation phase will be later in 2021. There is also limited thinking on the broader planning context and how this bridge feeds into that.

Summary of Current Bridge Alignment Options

  • Option One: To the West between the current bridges, building a new road and Principal Shared Path (PSP) Bridge, as well as a new passenger rail bridge, leaving the existing freight rail line bridge in its current location. This option maintains single lane two-way traffic across the bridge for 3 ½ years construction time.
  • Option Two: To the West between the bridges, building a new road and PSP Bridge, and a single new two track passenger and freight rail track (demolishes old freight bridge), maintains single lane two-way traffic across the bridge for 3 ½ years construction time.
  • Option Three: Two rail tracks between the bridges, new road and PSP bridge to the East – maintains existing traffic across 3 ½ years construction time.
  • Option Four: Two rail tracks between the bridges, and a completely new road and PSP bridge on existing alignment, removes bridge access for vehicles for 2 years.

A full summary of the alignment options is here.

On the traffic impact front, the project team have been modelling and testing traffic impacts during the construction phase, with options one, two and three requiring one lane to be closed on the current traffic bridge, in both directions, for an anticipated duration of more than two years. Option four, would require the full closure of the existing traffic bridge for the same duration of time. Access directly to Fremantle (rather than diverting traffic away from Fremantle towards Stirling Hwy) and connection between North Fremantle and Fremantle are crucial considerations for Chamber members.

The Fremantle Chamber of Commerce D&I Committee Meeting Response Summary:

The following is a summary of questions raised during the Fremantle Bridges Alliance presentation at the Chambers D&I Committee meeting:

  • Question: Has consideration been given to the way pedestrians and recreational cyclists will exit to the Eastern side of the bridge on the Southern side?
  • Alliance Response: This has not been part of the initial considerations to date but will form part of the design phase.
  • Question: Is the intention to construct the bridge with the same number of pylons? Can we minimise these?
  • Alliance Response: There will be less pylons and this is an important consideration for local Native Title holders to reduce impact on the riverbed. The pier alignment of the two existing bridges (Fremantle Traffic Bridge and Rail Bridge) complicates river navigation. All alignment options for the new crossings will improve navigation safety and vertical clearance, including an allowance for future sea level rise. Preliminary pier locations for the new crossings for each option have been developed with minimum spans at the navigation channels of 45m. Each new bridge will include up to five piers in total, with four in the river and one on the southern bank.
  • Question: Will the rail be closed for two years?
  • Alliance Response: No, the project is currently looking at options for public transport e.g. taking your bike on the train anytime, more parking at North Fremantle etc.
  • Question: Will Beach Street be closed?
  • Alliance Response: We will try to keep it open aside from short durations for tie-ins. This is an important access route into Fremantle Ports.
  • Question: Can you turn right from Stirling Highway bridge when heading south onto Canning Highway?
  • Alliance Response: No, pedestrians and vehicles will not be able to turn right.
  • Question: When will the procurement packages come out?
  • Alliance Response: Expected towards the end of the year and beginning of early next year.
    Question: You mentioned there will be subsequent works, have they been tendered for already?
  • Alliance Response: They haven’t as yet, but will come through in work packages from Main Roads.
  • Question: It is important not to be focused on short-term pain of construction at the expense of a better outcome for Fremantle for the next 100 years.
  • Alliance Response: Yes, that is valid and that is why articulating the complex and competing interests of this project is so important at this stage.

Survey Response Summary:

  • More than 500 survey responses have been received (about 10% from businesses)
  • Door knocking at local businesses has been happening on the North Fremantle side and along Canning Highway/ QVS south side
  • Face to face discussions about construction impacts, particularly for Option 4, have been conducted
  • Primary concern is strongest from businesses relying on passing trade
  • Survey is currently showing strong preference for Option one or two and this is consistent between residents and businesses who have completed the survey to date

Photo Credit @cityoffremantle