By Paul Hemsley
The Western Australian government has laid the first tracks in the Fremantle Line tunnel that will reconnect the Perth’s central business district with the nearby suburb of Northbridge for the first time in more than a century years as the Barnett government rediscovers the expensive romance of rail.
Part of the Perth City Link project, the plan to reconnect the two areas follows their division in 1881 by the Fremantle-Perth-Guildford rail lines, which was again increased during the gold rush in the 1890s as the central railway precinct grew, propelled by surging demand for passenger and freight services.
Although a popular infrastructure asset, the line has nonetheless created an inconvenient inner-city barrier that posed problems for commuters living and working between two effectively cut in half by the racks and the transport limitations they impose.
Although costly, the sinking of the track is a enables the reopening of an artery to the CBD as a key component of the Perth City Link.
The government has planned the Perth City Link project to be a 5.2ha precinct between the Horseshoe Bridge and Perth arena to contain a mix of commercial, residential buildings and public spaces.
The creation of the tunnel will involve putting the Wellington Street Bus Station underground., with the tunnel roof forming the foundation for new city squares and buildings
The $609 million construction of the 600 metre tunnel began until early 2012, with the first passenger train expected to pass through the tunnel in July 2013 and overall completion of the Perth City Link project expected in 2014.
The wider Perth City Link began project in August 2011 as part of the state government’s investment of $2.75 billion in Perth’s “transformation” – essentially a rebuild of the city’s transportation system has received $236 million from the federal government to build the tunnel.
The City of Perth has contributed about $38 million towards the overall project.
WA Minister for Transport Troy Buswell said Perth City Link will fundamentally change the face of the city and the way it’s used by sinking the rail and creating new connections between the CBD and Northbridge.
“The tracks that are being laid brings the 100-year dream of reconnecting the CBD and Northbridge closer to reality,” Mr Buswell said.
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