East West Freight Route

Perth, like many capital cities, has been facing an increasing freight task, together with increasing population growth, often with a conflict of interest between the two.

The Issue

The Freight Network Review was established to enable the community, industry, state and local government to work together to develop a new, sustainable framework for freight movement in the metropolitan area. Perth, like many capital cities, has been facing an increasing freight task, together with increasing population growth, often with a conflict of interest between the two. The community has become increasingly vocal about the impacts of freight on their safety, their property values, their environment and their quality of life. Business and industry have become increasingly vocal about the importance of efficient freight movement to the State’s economy.

The Port of Fremantle is a critical freight node. The proposals for the east west route to the Port have been fraught with problems. For a decade, community groups have been fighting against the proposed route of the new road, Roe Highway, through metropolitan wetlands. Similarly, conflicting community and economic interests have seen the proposed Fremantle Eastern By-pass, a link road, eliminated from the plans by the Labor Government, reinstituted by the Liberal Government, and again removed by the incoming Labor Government.

The first Freight Network Congress in June 2002, recommended a more rigorous application of social, environmental and economic values to freight route designations. One of the Congress sub teams, the Sustainability Working Party, recommended the use of a transparent method of triple bottom line accounting, using a Multi Criteria Analysis, for determining freight initiatives.

Specifically, they recommended that this methodology be applied to determining the best options for Roe Highway Stages 7 and 8 and alternative to the Fremantle Eastern By-pass. An independent consultant, experienced in Multi Criteria Analysis both in Australia and abroad, was recommended to carry out the process.

The Methodology
Multi Criteria Analysis Conference

A Multi Criteria Analysis is a decision-aiding technique to analyse alternatives to complex problems using weighted triple bottom line criteria that are developed by all stakeholders. The end result is the ‘best fit’ option.

The process is systematic, structured, open and accountable. It engages all key stakeholders with their differing objectives. Both technical data and value judgements are used to reach a preference.

The MCA process has four key components:

  1. A set of alternative options
  2. A set of criteria for comparing the alternatives
  3. Weighting to attach a measure of importance to each criteria
  4. A method of ranking the alternatives based on how well they satisfy the criteria

The process involves four key steps:

  1. Preparation and involvement of the community from the start;
  2. An initial Workshop of all participants to determine the options and criteria;
  3. An Expert Panel to oversee the quantitative data and to rate the qualitative data, with both sets of data being input to a specialised software package;
  4. A second Workshop of all participants to weight the criteria according to their importance. Using both the quantitative and qualitative data, together with the value judgement weightings, the computer software determines the best options.

MCA Conference Aim
To determine the best option for an east-west route from Roe Highway Stage 6 through to the port.

MCA Conference Constraint
It was stated from the outset of the Review that the Labor Government would not alter its commitment to delete the Fremantle Eastern By-Pass from the Metropolitan Region Scheme. Participants were requested to find an alternative to the By-pass. This constraint caused considerable concern among some participants throughout the deliberations.

The Process

MCA Steering Group
A Steering Group of community, industry and government representatives was established to oversee the MCA process. The Steering Group signed off on the final list of options, criteria and definitions.

MCA Conference Representation
All 120 Congress participants were invited to attend the MCA Workshops. Eighty participated, attending both Workshops. Participants were seated at facilitated tables of ten.

The Expert Panel consisted of 15 members, including professional, academic, industry and community people with environmental, economic and social value skills.

Public input to Options
Through advertisements in weekly and Saturday newspapers, members of the public were invited to submit suggested route options. There were 120 submissions. These varied from the status quo to highly creative solutions involving bridges, tunnels and alternatives to roads. The public suggestions were analysed by the Department for Planning and Infrastructure, and a synopsis of potential routes was developed.

MCA Workshop 1
At the first Workshop, held on 2 March 2002, the MCA consultant explained each of the steps in the process and the methods of scoring options. The Dept. for Planning and Infrastructure presented the synopsis of the public options, as well as several options previously developed by Main Roads WA. Maps outlining each of the options were available on each table.

Workshop participants then developed additional options. In total, twenty one options were identified, comprising five options for Roe Highway Stage 7, two options for freight only roads, eight options to upgrade existing roads between Kwinana Freeway and Stock Road, and six options for new Roe Highway Stage 8 alignments.

Finally, triple bottom line (economic, social and environmental) criteria were developed by the Workshop. These were the criteria to be used to evaluate each option. In total, thirty nine criteria were developed.

Each criterion was defined by the Workshop. Where a criterion was still not sufficiently clear for rating, the Expert Panel proposed a clarification. In each instance, the Steering Team agreed to the final definition. The altered wording was given to participants prior to Workshop 2 and was discussed briefly at the Workshop.

MCA Expert Panel
The Expert Panel members received comprehensive documentation, including reports, documents, expert opinion and raw data required to make a reasoned assessment. Consultants and other experts were available to answer any questions. Additional data was gathered when requested. The Expert Panel met several times over a three month period to evaluate the options against the criteria.

Where quantitative data was available (eg number of houses demolished, costs, CO2 emissions, hectares of bushland impacted), Expert Panel members overviewed it for accuracy and reliability. Where only qualitative scoring was feasible (eg impact on safety, impact on endangered species, disruption), Expert Panel members scored the options against the criteria.

MCA Workshop 2
Before the second Workshop, the final list of options, criteria and definitions were distributed to all participants. At the Workshop, held on 11 May 2002, participants discussed the information received, and individually weighted each criterion according to its importance. To enable a sensitivity analysis of particular groupings, participants divided into four groups to input their data: those who in this instance were putting the greatest emphasis on social, economic, environmental, or all criteria.

Following the computer analysis, the preferential ordering of options was displayed and discussed.

The original proposed route for Roe Highway stages 7 and 8 was not the preferred route. Indeed, the solution relied on using the existing roads more effectively rather than building new roads. Even when analysed according to participants’ social, economic, environmental or combined interests, the preferential top rankings did not significantly alter.


Overall, participant feedback on the process was very positive. Many suggested that this process should become institutionalised for freight route designations. Some, however, remained perturbed that the Fremantle Eastern By-pass was not considered as an option. Others, representing economic interests, were dissatisfied with the preferred option, which they believed was not capable of handling the increasing freight load. Notably, however, as a group, they too had not given preference to the originally proposed routes for Roe Highway stages 7 and 8.

Given the large number of options and criteria developed, the workload for the Departmental support team to provide the data to rate each option against each criterion, was considerably greater than originally expected. Similarly, the workload for the volunteer Expert Panel was larger than anticipated. This resulted in far higher costs than expected, and caused the second Workshop to be delayed for six weeks.

A debriefing session was held of the Steering Group and Expert Panel. A large number of suggestions were made for consideration in future processes including:

  • Participation – two viewpoints were expressed. Participants suggested including fewer people with balanced representation. The MCA consultant suggested not limiting attendance at all, including community members who had not participated in the earlier two day Congress.
  • Timing – allowing more time at Workshop 1 for the definitions of the criteria to be discussed. Much of this work had to be completed after the Workshop, following up wherever possible with those who had suggested the options.
  • Limiting options and criteria – with 21 options and 39 criteria, the reality of time constraints meant that scoring was done quickly in some instances, and was hugely costly in others. One possible solution was to group options into like types so ‘strategic evaluation’ could have been carried out. An alternative suggestion was to have a ‘no go’ option for each criterion, so options that would clearly not survive a triple bottom line analysis could be disallowed without further analysis. The MCA consultant, however, thought otherwise – that the value in the process was the opportunity it gave to find unrestricted, creative alternatives.

Although the participants of the Multi Criteria Analysis accepted the outcomes of the Workshops as fair and reasonable, this could not be said for the wider community of varying vested interests. For several years, a paper war has raged in the local press between those who support the originally proposed freight route and those who support the changes recommended by the Congress. It has remained a political issue.