Off the rails

A local MP believes “hundreds of millions of dollars” needs to be invested in a Globelink-style truck bypass around the Hills.

The State Government’s refusal to entertain the concept of a rail link to the Hills leaves the region without a major option to solve its transport woes.
On almost a weekly basis commuters on the freeway are stalled by accidents or breakdowns, some of which cause major delays.
With the population in the Mt Barker Council area alone expected to grow by about 50% over the next 15 years, it’s a problem that will only get worse.
Local MP Dan Cregan would like to see passenger rail between the city and Mt Barker. But with the Transport Minister saying it is financially unviable, it is unlikely to be a solution any time soon.
The Minister has indicated that road-based solutions are his priority … but we’re yet to see his plan.
The failure of the State Government’s GlobeLink concept – which would have re-routed road and rail freight around the Hills and potentially vacated the rail corridor for passenger trains – left it without an infrastructure plan for the region.
While planned upgrades to an existing freight road route around the Hills may take some pressure off the freeway, it will not solve the region’s traffic problems.
What the community needs to see from its Government is a clear, evidence-based, long-term strategy.
This should have been put in place when the former Labor Government rezoned 1300ha of farmland around Mt Barker in 2010, opening the floodgates for rapid growth in the region.
But it wasn’t. And a decade on, we appear to have made little progress towards an effective solution.
The freeway is still the only efficient transport corridor connecting the city with Mt Barker and the string of smaller towns along the way.
Park ‘n’ Rides are overflowing, traffic on the freeway is regularly at a standstill and the region isn’t even close to it’s predicted population peak.
We live in a country almost the size of Europe – with a fraction of the population – which brings unique infrastructure challenges.
But a decade on from Mt Barker’s rezoning, it’s well past time to find a realistic, workable solution that will future- proof the Hills and cater for the massive growth inflicted upon the region.