A tunnel could be an easy alternative to save dozens of homes from being demolished to make way for the Perth Freight Link, the West Australian premier says.

More than 70 properties in the southern Perth suburb of Palmyra have received letters stating that their homes could be knocked down to make way for the $1.6 billion project connecting industrial areas to Fremantle Port.

Premier Colin Barnett said on Thursday that a tunnel could be an easy option because it would go mostly through sand rather than rock.

“A tunnel is an option, but a lot of work needs to be done on that yet and I can understand why residents are concerned, of course anyone would be, but I think a decision on that is still some way away,” he told Fairfax Radio.

The premier was also critical of Main Roads for sending the letters to residents when a route had not been finalised, describing it as a “clumsy” decision that Transport Minister Dean Nalder was now trying to fix.

“I don’t think enough thought was given to it,” he said.

“It just came as a bolt out of the blue. I think that was unfair to residents.”

Mr Barnett promised the state government would try to deal with the situation sensibly.

“If it’s necessary to resume properties then that will be done in a fair and generous way,” he said.

The opposition was also quick to criticise the state government on Wednesday for not properly communicating with the affected residents.  Mr Nalder acknowledged that it had not been handled well, but promised to meet with the residents in the next couple of weeks.