Freight Network Review

As with most capital cities, the transport of freight has become a crucial issue, not just to the economics of the state, but to its quality of life.

The Issue

As with most capital cities, the transport of freight has become a crucial issue, not just to the economics of the state, but to its quality of life. There is now recognition of the importance of the triple bottom line – social, environmental and economic impacts – in assessing decisions relating to infrastructure and planning. The major road transport planning for Perth was completed in the 1960s, and although there had been periodic reviews and changes, there had not been a major review of the framework for freight movement in the metropolitan area. Before coming to Government, the Labor party committed to providing opportunities for detailed community input to a freight review.

2001 Freight Planning Congress

To bring the community, industry, state and local government into the heart of the freight planning process to establish a new framework for freight movement in the metropolitan area and a sustainable network plan:

  • considering all the alternative options – road, rail, sea and air
  • taking into account the economic, social and environmental impacts of the different freight alternatives.

The Methodology

Combination of techniques:

  • Consensus Forum
  • Deliberative Survey (modified)
  • Multi Criteria Analysis Conference


Phase 1 – Prior to Consensus Forum

Community Reference Group

Four community members representing different aspects of the community were chosen by the Minister to form the Community Reference Group.


  • To oversee the freight review process from its inception
  • To act as a sounding board at key stages, including the development of papers and appropriate community participation at each stage of the process
  • To provide independent input and advice

Key Issues Working Party

The Working Parties consisted of representatives with a variety of expertise from state and local government, industry and community.

To jointly write eight papers on specific issues including freight impacts, network evolution, access by different modes, ‘hotspots’ and options. The aim of including broad diversity in the development of these papers was to ensure all viewpoints were represented rather than necessarily reaching consensus.

Additional papers developed
Community groups developed several papers on specific freight issues of interest to them; and a futurist consultant was asked to develop an additional paper on a new potential freight paradigm. The Outcomes Report from the Road Train Summit was also distributed to participants.

Freight Telephone Survey Participants
Random and segmented population sample of one thousand (1,000) from the larger metropolitan area

  • 500 living throughout the larger metropolitan area
  • 500 living on or near routes within the larger metropolitan area which have caused community concern – ‘hot spots’

To collect views of a representative population to determine:

  • Issues and concerns about the routine flow of heavy trucks and trains in the metropolitan area
  • Suggestions for improvement
  • Trade-offs people might be prepared to make between costs and quality
  • The relevance of issues being covered at the Congress (enabling modification of the agenda if necessary)

Phase 1 Learnings

Developing Papers
The team process to develop papers had varying success. It would appear that without first establishing trust, community, industry and government groups find it difficult to change roles from developing positions and lobbying for them, to becoming equal partners in a joint developmental process. It would have been useful for an independent facilitator to have built trust with each of the groups and ensured a fair say for all participants. Adequate representation on the teams by community and industry was also perceived to be a problem in some teams.


Phase 2 – Consensus Forum

The First Community Congress – (2 days)

Approximately one hundred and thirty (130) representatives of community, industry, local / state / federal governments

  • Community members responding to advertisements in state wide and local newspapers, including key community lobby groups;
  • Community members from a random sample of residents living on or near main freight routes as well as those not near major routes;
  • Industry representatives including freight owners, operators and employees, those working in associated industries, suppliers and customers, who responded to the advertisements;
  • Industry, safety and environmental groups who received invitations;
  • Government representatives: regulators and other state and local government officers involved who received invitations.

To gain greater community understanding of freight issues, to determine the broad policy direction and a methodology to complete the network where there are missing / inadequate / inappropriate links.


Day 1

  • Presentation of brief papers
  • Questioning and exploration of key issues through an ‘expert panel’ of community, industry, local and state government representatives with freight expertise
  • Developing a common understanding of the participants’ vision of an ideal freight system and the elements that would needed to be implement it, by each of the tables completing a “mind map”. The elements included both the ‘drivers’ and the ‘actions’ to achieve the table’s ideal system.
  • Developing consensus strategies to manage freight, improve sustainability and reduce the impacts. To achieve this, the technique of ‘Affinity Diagrams’ was used. Individuals brainstormed ideas, writing each idea onto a post-it note. Each small team grouped its post-it notes into key themes. The key themes from all teams were then grouped by representatives from each team to determine the key themes of the entire room.

Day 2

  • Trialling of a simple multi criteria analysis methodology to address two specific missing / inadequate / inappropriate links in the freight network � Roe Highway and Alternatives to the Fremantle Eastern By-pass. Components of triple bottom line criteria (environmental, social and economic) were agreed to by each of the teams. These were the issues to be taken into account to improve the links in the network. Assessments were made according to potential impacts according to each criterion, as well as the value the community placed on each criterion
  • Making suggestions on improvements to the methodology. Participants not have sufficient detailed information needed to make such decisions. However, the discussion and attempts at achieving consensus on the content available and the decision making process, were both challenging and informative. Suggestions to improve to this methodology were collected from each table.


  • The Report of the Congress Outcomes was sent to all participants within two weeks of the Congress

Phase 2 Learnings

Sense of Team
The Congress was large, and the people very disparate, however, a sense of team still pervaded, in part due to:

  • the spaciousness of the venue and its aspect (the Fremantle Port Authority Passenger Terminal overlooking the port)
  • the placing of varying stakeholder groups at each table (each participant was designated a table for the duration of the Congress) and
  • the skilled facilitators at each table (Labor and Green Members of Parliament, CEOs of related agencies, as well as several senior departmental and local government officers).

Freight issues are broad and complex, not easy to tackle in a relatively short period of time, with a large number of people from very different perspectives. To address this, the Congress focused on being inclusive, ensuring all ideas were recorded, and then jointly grouping ideas to achieve a sense of moving forward together.

The second day of trialling a triple bottom line methodology to examine two problematic freight links was more difficult – the issues were emotional and complex. Actually having to address some of the issues faced by planners, however, was determined to be constructive, if harrowing for some.

Plan to Move Forward
The Congress was pleased with the proposed plan for teams of participants to build on the ideas of the Congress, and to reconvene the whole group at the end of the process to review the outcomes.


Phase 3 – Policy Development

To agree upon the key policy levers and working groups that could best achieve the ideal freight system, based on the outcomes of the Freight Planning Congress. To recommend to the Congress actionable strategies and plans that would make a significant difference to a more sustainable freight system in the future.

The Methodology

The Freight Network Review Implementation Team

The Implementation Team consisted of agency planning and infrastructure CEOs, representatives of community, including lobby groups, local government, transport industry and other government agencies.

To build on the outcomes of the first Congress, agreeing upon the key policy levers that would most likely bring about the changes required by the Congress; and using the levers as the basis, to oversee an engagement process to develop a freight strategy and action plan.

The Report of the Policy Team Outcomes (the levers), was sent to all Congress participants three months after the first Congress.

Freight Network Review Working Parties
To bring the Policy Levers into effect, six Working Parties were created under the umbrella of the Implementation Team including: Sustainability; Master Planning; Increasing rail haulage to and from Fremantle Port; Better utilising regional ports; Assessing the limits to growth of Fremantle Port; and Hypothecation.

Representation and Brief
A CEO or Director chaired each team and a senior departmental representative took the role of project manager. At least one other member of the Implementation Team was represented on each Working Party, as well as community, industry and local government representatives who had participated in the first Congress. The Working Parties were supported by a departmental team, which provided data and other assistance. The Implementation Team gave each Working Party a brief that scoped their project and a clear time-line, namely to deliver practical recommendations to the second Freight Congress to be held 6 months later.

To ensure the Working Parties were working holistically, the Project Leaders met regularly and shared data and drafts of papers. Progress reports were presented by the CEOs at Implementation Team meetings, issues were discussed and recommendations were made back to Working Parties. Mid term and final reports of the Working Parties were presented to the Minister for Planning and Infrastructure to enable her to understand the issues and input the government perspective prior to the second Freight Congress.

The Working Parties carried out their tasks effectively and cooperatively within a very short timeframe to gather and analyse the data, agree upon a way forward, make recommendations and concur with a final paper. The effort and commitment, particularly from the community representatives who were not being paid for this work, was quite extraordinary. The final papers were deliberated at length, including reviews by both the Minister and Implementation Team, with recommended changes not being incorporated unless there was Working Party agreement.

Additional Consultation
Several working Parties commissioned additional consultation during the preparation of their recommendations. This included Community Focus Groups, a Deliberative Survey, and a large Multi Criteria Analysis Conference to determine an east west freight route through to Fremantle Port.

Deliberative Survey (modified)

A deliberative survey involves a representative, statistically significant, random sample of the population, who are surveyed on an issue before and after informed discussion. The advantage of the deliberative survey is that it enables decision makers to know what an informed public thinks about an issue and why. In this instance, the deliberative survey was modified so participants were only surveyed once, after reading comprehensive information and having opportunities to discuss the issues with friends and family as well as access to a ‘hotline’ and web site.

The deliberative survey focused on the community’s perceptions of the limits to growth of the Fremantle Inner Harbour.

A community focus group was held to determine issues of significance to the community regarding Fremantle Inner Harbour limits to growth. Using this data, members of the Limits to Growth Working Party developed the survey questions with the assistance of an independent consultant.

The Working Party agreed upon the geographical boundaries for the survey sample. In addition, they oversaw the development of the information package to ensure it was a fair representation of the views of the key stakeholders.

Participants were sent an information package with briefing papers from each of the major stakeholders – the port authority, the local council and community groups. Recipients were asked to read the information, discuss the issues with family and colleagues, ring an information line or log onto the web to get further information, and then complete the survey.

An independent consultant administered the survey, analysed the results, and wrote the final report for the Working Party.

Deliberative Survey Learnings

Although the survey produced very useful results, the full deliberative survey would have provided important information on whether participants changed their views as a result of information and deliberation. In particular, it could have highlighted what information was important, and whether informed dialogue was significant in attitude formation.

Multi Criteria Analysis Conference

The Sustainability Working Party recommended carrying out a community centred process to determine freight network options according to the triple bottom line. The sustainability technique recommended was the Multi Criteria Analysis. An independent consultant, experienced in Multi Criteria Analysis both in Australia and abroad, was recommended to carry out the process

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.

Multi-Criteria Analysis Workshops were held to determine the best option for an east-west route from Roe Highway Stage 6 through to the port.

The MCA process has four key components:

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

The process involves four key steps:

  • Preparation and involvement of the community from the start;
  • An initial Workshop of all participants to determine the options and criteria;
  • An Expert Panel to oversee the quantitative data and to rate the qualitative data, with both sets of data being input to the computer;
  • 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 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. 80 participated, attending both Workshops. Participants were seated at facilitated tables of ten.

The Expert Panel consisted of 15 members, including professional, academics, 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. 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, 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 the Main Roads Department. 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.

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, 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.

MCA Learnings

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

The Report of the Freight Network Review Working Parties was sent to all Congress participants six months after the first Congress.


Phase 4 – Consensus Forum

The 2nd Congress – Consensus Forum (1 Day)

All participants from the first Congress were invited back to participate in the 2nd Congress. Of the one hundred and thirty (130) participants from the first Congress, approximately one hundred and twenty (120) attended

To review the outcomes of the Freight Network Planning Working Groups, determine the level of support, the gaps that still needed to be addressed, and what needed to be done first.

Prior to 2nd Congress
Reports from the six Working Groups were sent to all participants a week prior to the 2nd Congress. It was requested that the reports be read before the Congress and questions noted to ask on the day

For the benefit of participants, new train technology – the Cargo Sprinter – was brought to WA to the rail station close to the Congress, in order to demonstrate its freight potential.

The Congress began with an overview of all the work done since the 1st Congress. A representative of each Working Group presented a synopsis of the team’s process and recommendations. Presenters then formed a panel to respond to questions.

Participants at small tables discussed the extent to which the recommendations were supported and additional issues needed to be taken into account. At a plenary session, the most important issues were highlighted.

Again in small groups, participants discussed the gaps in the Freight Network Planning thus far. The extent to which the Policy Levers were addressed was discussed, together with any additional Policy Levers. At the plenary session, the most important Policy Lever issues were highlighted.

The small interactive groups then focussed on priorities and timing. There was discussion on what should be done in the first twelve months. The plenary then determined the timing priorities.

The Minister closed the day outlining the process to follow. This included the continuation of the community / industry / government Implementation Team, charged with overseeing the implementation of the key recommendations of the Congress. She also informed participants that they would receive updates describing what had been achieved and what was still to be done.

An Outcomes Report of the 2nd Congress was sent to all Congress participants. This Report included policy lever areas needing to be addressed and why; the review of the Working Party recommendations outlining the issue, its importance, why it was important and how it could be resolved; and the top 15 priorities from the Master Plan actions.

Regular Freight Review Progress Updates have been sent to all participants. The ‘Six Point Plan’, developed by the Implementation Team and accepted by Government, has become the major focus. This Six Point Plan is a broad-sweeping agenda for Government over the next decade to shift the focus of freight to more sustainable options. To date, the implementation of the recommended actions is on track and on time

2nd Freight Congress and Freight Network Review Learnings

  • The 2nd Congress gave a sense of closure and celebration of an extensive amount of work done by many of the participants;
  • Most importantly, it allowed participants to see that their input had been meaningful, in that specific actions were being taken on their behalf;
  • Many of the participants of the Freight Network Review have become the key protagonists for the strategy, taking its rationale to the public at every opportunity, and highlighting the fairness and comprehensiveness of the consultation process;
  • Some aspects of this strategy have become mired in party political debate, have inspired heated public discussions, endless letters to the newspapers and public demonstrations, pro and con. Unfortunately, information from the Congress, made widely available on Web, has sometimes been taken out of context and misinterpreted. This has not helped public understanding.
  • A Local Impacts Committee, chaired by a local member of parliament and consisting of the key stakeholders pro and against the Congress outcomes has been meeting for over two years to try to resolve some of the road impact issues. It has been a difficult, slow, sometimes tortuous route
  • The Freight Network Review has highlighted the difficulty of bringing the broad public together with an extensive consultation process when the issues and outcomes are contentious. While long term sustainability practices may be in the interests of the larger community, it is exceptionally difficult when they are not in the interests of specific residential groups.