Sydney’s 2nd airport site emerges from the flood
It has been obvious for a long time to anyone that takes a train through south-western Sydney that Badgery’s Creek or the adjacent Nepean site has long been unofficially recognised as the only answer to its urgent need for a 2nd major airport.
That is because of the very substantial graded separation project nearing completion at the previously insignificant suburban railway station of Glenfield, where the existing Airport or East Hills line has by amazing coincidence, been linked seamlessly to the SW Rail project, which will go to Leppington when it opens in 2016, but could ever so easily be extended to a terminal at either Badgery’s Creek or the larger options immediately to its west at the Nepean site.
A fast rail link between Badgery’s Creek/Nepean and the existing Sydney Airport and the CBD would be vital to the 2nd airport project, as would be the connections the new rail infrastructure allows between it and Strathfield via Glenfield.
The freeway style rail flyovers at Glenfield also link in to the substantial duplication of the East Hills line that is already nearing completion, allowing express services between both Sydney Airport, the clearly intended Sydney West airport, and the CBD.
But the astonishing thing about these works is that an eastern and northern Sydney centric media has never noticed them, and asked itself “Hang on, what does this really mean?”
Today, when much of western Sydney including the Nepean River is on flood alert, the identification of Badgery’s Creek or the adjacent Nepean Airport site as the preferred, indeed only, realistic option for a 2nd Sydney Airport in Sydney is tipped to be announced, in this latest of a serious of slow leaks in this comprehensive report in the Sydney Morning Herald.
The most substantial of these leaks was the one in December naming a Nepean site, right beside but west of the preserved but comparatively smaller site the Commonwealth already owns at Badgery’s Creek.
What the joint NSW/Federal committee looking at Sydney Airport sites has done is drag the political posturing about Sydney’s need for a second airport back to reality.
Without a second airport that can be reached in the Sydney basin by businesses and a general public located in Sydney, the city will lose its capacity to participate in future national economic growth to Mega-Melbourne and Mega-BrisVegas.
And it needs one now. The rather tragic response of the National’s leader Warren Truss to the inevitability of this decision will end up as a historical footnote, in that he bravely clings to the 20th century notion that everything is fine and the existing airport which handles more than 36 million people a year will have no problems whatsoever in dealing with over 70 million a year by 2030, or close to 100 million a year by the middle of the century, when Sydney would have more than doubled in population.
Mr Truss. Your country is growing, way beyond your comfort zone. Get your head around this and say something sensible. By 2030 it won’t even be possible to find parking spots for peak hour jets at Sydney Airport, and they won’t be quaint single aisle relics like the A320s or 737s of today, they will on average be jets carrying around 350 passengers per flight, and some of them will be A380 derivates carrying close to 1000 passengers, or about on 50% more than a Country Rail XPT.
The mindset in some politicians reminds me of the learned, helplessly wrong submissions made by government and transport experts in the 60s, 70s and 80s, which variously saw a need for no more than 16 flights daily between Sydney and Melbourne, regarded the 48 seat Vickers Viscounts as the right sized aircraft for trunk routes, and forecast that Sydney could reach 10 million passengers a year by around 2005 at the upper end of traffic estimates.
If the committee really does release its report today, its endorsement of a Sydney West site for an all new airport will be a disappointment for the Victorian and Queensland governments, in that until recently NSW seemed determined to cap and seal Sydney into obsolescence by maintaining the view that it really didn’t need to do anything much at all, the the existing airport could go on growing by around 6% per annum indefinitely, and that a non-existant fast rail service, reached by non-existant relevant transport infrastructure within the Sydney basin would be the happy, politically safe answer to everything.
As if. Fast rail will prove critical to all of SE Australia before this century is even one third gone, but the air links to deal with several thousand new A380 sized flights per week from Asia by the middle of the next decade is a case of Australia not appearing to have the faintest idea how to cope with the greatness, or the opportunities, being forced upon it, and there will be no fast trains to China, Indonesia, Vietnam or India.
As the various carefully managed leaks from the committee have already indicated, there will be suggestions for increased flights within the existing jet curfews at Sydney Airport, and there may even be attempts made to run some traffic through Bankstown Airport or Richmond, neither of which are practicable nor plausible.
The issue is the need for an airport that will within decades be as large as Sydney Airport today, while the main airport, through sensible and already proposed changes to its terminals and the up scaling of aircraft size, can indeed handle more traffic.
But Sydney in terms of time taken to travel, is as much as two hours wide and two hours long today. Only with two capable airports can it be a city that provides business and the public with airport access that is one hour away from any part of the basin, whether by improved public transport or roads.
The SW Rail link has of course made no references whatsoever to the possibility that it might serve a Sydney West airport. It is just that its planners weren’t dummies after all, and could see the main chance with considerable clarity.