An independent study has confirmed Fremantle as Australia's best option as a national gateway for landbridging cargo.
The study, by Melbourne-based consultants Thompson Clarke Shipping, found there were opportunities for sea-road or sea-rail operators to offer profitable services based on Fremantle as a port.
It estimated up to 45,000 containers a year could be landbridged between the west and east coasts through Fremantle.
The study - the Fremantle Land Bridge Project - was released in Fremantle this morning by Prime Minister Paul Keating.
Western Australian Transport Minister Pam Beggs today said the study reflected a commercially-focussed approach and its estimates were probably nearer the mark than the more speculative estimates that had been made in the past.
"The Government insisted throughout the study that the consultants emphasise the commercial realities and it is clear they have followed that instruction," Mrs Beggs said.
"The study is a basis for the commercial strategies of the Government agencies that inevitably will be involved in landbridging. These include Fremantle Port Authority, Westrail and the National Rail Corporation.
"It further builds on the commitment to landbridging outlined in the State Government's strategy, the WA Advantage, and shows it is a realistic and worthwhile objective with economic benefits for WA."
Mrs Beggs said the port's existing and planned infrastructure could handle landbridging up to 45,000 containers a year.
The study showed there was no need for increased investment or infrastructure other than the $13.5 million committed to Fremantle and the standard gauge rail link under the Prime Minister's One Nation statement earlier this year.
Mrs Beggs said the study looked at eight options, seven involving Fremantle and one based in Adelaide.
"All except one of the Fremantle options would yield better returns than landbridging out of Adelaide," she said.
"It showed that with appropriately flexible rail freight rates, Fremantle always would offer potential landbridge operators a better deal than either Adelaide or Darwin."
It also showed Fremantle had a significant advantage over Melbourne as a landbridging port and that Darwin had never been a realistic option for the concept.
"Fremantle offers sailing time advantages over other Australian ports for cargoes from South East Asia and Europe," Mrs Beggs said.
"For example, Darwin is only 340 nautical miles closer to Singapore than Fremantle but there is no local market for international consumer goods in the Territory capital; neither is there a rail link between Darwin and the other major population centres.
"Also, Adelaide is 8.7 sailing days from Singapore, compared with 5.4 from Fremantle."
Mrs Beggs said locally-based rail consultant Ron Robertson of Jabot Holdings and United States landbridging expert Bill Hubbard also had made significant contributions to the study.
Agencies such as the Fremantle Port Authority, Westrail and the State Department of Transport would implement the landbridging concept.
"The State Government emphasises that this implementation will have a hard commercial edge," Mrs Beggs said.
"The whole concept will be market-driven and the Government will maintain the same commercial approach that the consultants adopted in identifying Fremantle as the key landbridge gateway."