‘It would be catastrophic’: Residents fight rail change

‘It would be catastrophic’: Residents fight rail change

Mardella resident and principal petitioner David Leitch at his property.

A campaign calling on the state government to review drastic changes to the realignment of the freight rail line south of Mundijong Road has reached parliament this week.

A petition requesting the Department of Transport, Main Roads and Arc Infrastructure to work with the Shire of Serpentine Jarrahdale to investigate alternate routes was tabled in the Upper House yesterday afternoon, signed by some 470 respondents.

The submission follows months of community meetings involving residents and landowners in the semi-rural suburb of Mardella, 40 kilometres south-east of Perth.

The proposed freight rail realignment has been on the cards for more than a decade, but it wasn’t until the release of the shire’s Mundijong District Structure Plan late last year that Mardella residents discovered that it had been significantly altered.

The new plan showed that the preferred route following the Tonkin Highway had been superseded and that the two new options listed would see the freight rail run right through their living rooms and cut other properties in half.

Two months after residents uncovered the change, Main Roads hosted a community information session and, in March this year, a letter was sent to more than 900 property owners informing them about the freight realignment study.

Properties along the rail corridor also received a ‘Notice of Entry’ from the Public Transport Authority informing them that Main Roads would be undertaking site investigations and planning works, but Examiner Newspapers understands few property owners have been visited.

Since then, residents have been lobbying hard against the changes – including Mardella resident David Leitch, who spearheaded the petition.

Mr Leitch and his wife purchased a property in Mardella in 2014, but had no idea that they could lose 40 per cent of it to the freight rail realignment until a neighbour told them about the updated plan 12 months ago.

“The option listed on the map would see our property effectively be cut in half,” he said.

“We would lose 40 per cent of our property, which is simply untenable for us.

“We moved here for a lifestyle that we believed would suit us into our twilight years.

“It would be catastrophic for us, but for other landowners it would be even worse.

“I understand that this is state infrastructure, but I would like to see some real advocacy from the local government – who I believe have the ability to influence this decision – and push for the rail to be realigned on the Tonkin Highway.

“I’d also like to see the shire acknowledge that they value the equine industry in this area – an industry that generates $70 million a year for the shire.

“That isn’t supported by running a railway through these equine properties when it need not.”

Just 24 hours after the publication of the story in last week’s Examiner, Main Roads WA distributed an update to subscribers that featured a new map of the realignment of the freight rail line – a map that no longer features the original route following the Tonkin Highway and now exclusively shows the two alternate routes bisecting Mardella.

Main Roads WA media manager Dean Roberts confirmed that there were now two options being assessed as part of a study being undertaken by Main Roads, however, no final decisions had been made.

Shire of Serpentine Jarrahdale president Michelle Rich reiterated that the shire was aware that the state government was exploring route options for the realignment of the freight railway and would continue to advocate for community engagement to occur at all stages of this process.