THE Perth Freight Link could be scrapped after WA Labor pledged to end the controversial project if it wins power at the March state election.
Labor leader Mark McGowan said funding allocated to the $1.9b PFL would be freed up for other “congestion busting” projects.
Among those are the $166m Armadale Road Bridge flyover to link Armadale Road with North Lake Road, a $95m spend for two new overpasses on Wanneroo Road and plans to bring forward funding to widen Armadale Road between Anstey Road and Tapper Road.“Our decision is ultimately based on the fact that WA cannot afford to waste billions of dollars on a truck highway that will eventually end at (Fremantle port, which) is soon to reach capacity,” he said.
“Understanding the jobs crisis facing WA, we will immediately redirect funding to shovel ready projects to create new jobs and help address traffic congestion in our suburbs.”
A spokesman for Transport Minister Bill Marmion said the opposition would put at risk $1.1b in Federal funding and more than 3300 jobs by scrapping the PFL.
The Perth Freight Link will extend Roe Highway to Fremantle Port.
Contracts for Roe 8 – the $450m first stage of the project which would link Roe Highway to Stock Road – were signed late last year.
Work began in December.
“Ripping up the contract will immediately cost WA taxpayers up to $40m,” the spokesman said.
“Roe 8 is not only important for WA’s economic development, but will improve congestion and road safety in the area.”
Mr McGowan said there would be a “modest” financial burden to taxpayers after he sought legal advice from former State Solicitor Grant Donaldson SC who examined the redacted Roe 8 contracts tabled in Parliament last year.
In a letter to Mr McGowan, Mr Donaldson said clauses in the contracts had the effect of “limiting the compensation to which the State might … have been liable”.
He said provisions limiting the liability of a party terminating a contract are not always seen in agreements of this kind.
“The underlying commercial logic of this aspect of the Project Alliance Agreement is that the (Main Roads) Commissioner has an unrestrained right to terminate the agreement and the financial implications for the State of termination are limited,” he said.
Mr McGowan said he did not think cancelling the PFL would lead to a lengthy legal dispute with contractors.
“The contract is very clear and it provides for arbitration between the State and contractors in relation to these matters,” he said.
He said he was confident more than $1b in Federal funding offered up for the PFL would remain available to WA even if the project was cancelled.
He said a precedent had been set in Victoria when the East-West link was stopped by the incoming Labor Government.
“When the East-West Link was stopped by the incoming Victorian Government, the Commonwealth dedicated its contribution to other congestion busting projects in Melbourne and Victoria,” he said.
Cockburn Mayor Logan Howlett said the Armadale Road flyover bridge was pivotal to a growing area.
“Bringing the duplication of Armadale Road forward and providing funding for the Armadale Road Bridge means our community will have access to vital infrastructure that saves them time and money sooner rather than later,” he said.