By Paul Hemsley
Local governments in the Perth metropolitan area have called for light rail to be a major part of sustainable transport improvement plans from the state government.
The Western Australian Government has released a discussion paper titled ‘Public Transport for Perth in 2031’ asking for submissions based on light rail, rapid transport corridors and rail network expansion with more buses and trains.
The Sustainable Energy Association of Australia (SEA) is encouraging its members and interested parties to participate in the process of submission.
SEA CEO Professor Ray Wills said due to growth in the Western Australian economy, Perth will also grow, so strategies improving the city’s transport amenity must be included.
Prof Wills said about 16 local governments represented at various forums on the subject said they wanted light rail.
He said the City of Perth is an SEA member but there is no firm commitment yet from the council as they have no definite transport plan at this time.
Light rail is an asset likely to be under government management, but not necessarily in government ownership, Prof Wills said.
“Various studies from around the world show light rail undoubtedly improves property value, rental and retail income, consequently property developers themselves are very interested in seeing light rail established and are willing to invest,” Prof Wills said.
According to Prof Wills, discussions between local governments and private developers have mentioned the need for private money to pay for it and that private money investment will not be any contribution to the rail system, rather it will be the return in terms of their own property values.
Prof Wills said the Perth metropolitan area used to have a light rail transport system, but today the infrastructure is gone as it was dismantled in the 1950s and 1960s after planners saw a similar scheme taking place in California.
“They were tearing up their transport system and thought this was the way of the modern world and ours went too,” he said.
“It is important that new plans in Perth take the opportunity to be a model of sustainable growth in a carbon-constrained 21st century economy”.
According to Prof Wills, light rail has advantages over buses including being quieter and less intrusive, less energy per passenger kilometre and offers investment certainty along transport corridors because of infrastructure commitment.
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