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Sydney 2nd airport quest about to choose old favourite, again

Badgerys Creek, the 2nd Sydney Airport site that keeps defying the stunted visions of Federal Labor and the NSW Coalition governments, is about to be anointed by yet another ‘independent’ study.

An overview taken from (gasp) a No Aircraft Noise brochure

There is a note at the end of this morning’s SMH report on the ongoing NW rail project calamity which says New South Wales Infrastructure is a day away from recommending Badgerys Creek for Sydney’s urgently needed 2nd airport.

Badgerys Creek was named as the site for such an airport by Federal Labor in 1986, with the site purchased, and with work on supporting road infrastructure and final planning started, until the responsible Minister in the last Keating government, Laurie Brereton, stopped work on the project in 1995 “in order to fast track it”,  as he said at the time in multiple radio, television and print interviews.

Since then Federal Labor, State Labor, and State Coalition governments have baulked at building the airport, with Federal Coalition governments ducking for cover whenever it is mentioned.

If the report as to NSW Infrastructure’s recommendation is correct, it will be made contrary to the policy pronouncements of the Federal Labor Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, Anthony Albanese, and the NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell, but it is the only second airport site for Sydney that is already owned by government, and the only one that if developed could realistically and efficiently allow Sydney to grow its economy based on being the principal gateway to Australia and the leading location for the large corporate entities requiring efficient links to the rest of the country and the world.

Albanese, who is bound by Federal Labor policy to oppose Badgerys Creek, actually supports it, but dismissed an earlier independent Federal/State inquiry that also endorsed the site in January this year, and has commissioned a new ‘independent’ study into a site at Wilton, on the southern edges of the metropolitan sprawl, where a large housing estate is currently under construction.

There is no efficient option for the construction of an airport near Wilton, given the loss of the optimum area of flat land to housing, because of the undulating nature of the terrain, short of engaging in extraordinarily extensive large scale reshaping of the available areas to render them suitable.

All this at a site which in terms of inferior accessibility, is set up to be a mediocre project, if not an outright failure.

Meanwhile, Badgerys Creek, through a miracle of rail planning, is near the current intended terminus of the SW Rail project, which on opening in 2014 or 2015 will allow the same trains that pass through Sydney Airport to run a further 33 kilometres or so to the likely location of a 2nd airport terminal.

If the O’Farrell government wanted to seriously embarrass Federal Labor it could of course, embrace Badgery’s Creek for Sydney’s much needed 2nd airport, thus deflecting the mortifying deficiencies being pointed out by Minister Albanese, and the Sydney Morning Herald, in its rather whacky planning of a NW Rail link that will use uniquely small tunnels, involve standing up for one of the longest rail commutes in the metropolitan area, and terminate at Chatswood rather than make it all the way to the main CBD.

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  • 1
    comet
    Posted October 2, 2012 at 8:56 am | Permalink

    Badgery’s Creek is political poison.

    Of course it’s the best option, infrastructure-wise, we all know that. But infrastructure inquiries never factor in the political fallout that would destroy any politician that signs the go-ahead for an airport at Badgery’s.

    So, what’s the answer? Can we expect politicians to ruin their own careers by supporting the Badgery’s airport?

  • 2
    Jet Kangaroo
    Posted October 2, 2012 at 10:24 am | Permalink

    Enough is enough….

    As an Australian it’s infuriating to see how minority groups can hold the good of a nation (or State) to ransom. I live near Sydney’s Kingsford Smith airport and when I purchased my house with my wife, we did so with complete knowledge of aeroplane traffic overhead – it therefore baffles me when people who purchased properties in or around Badgrey’s Creek kicking up a stink over the potential development of Sydney’s 2nd airport.

    Politician’s are elected to lead for the good of the nation (or state) not to be lead by minority groups and look after their individual vested interests.

    NSW is a complete mess because of government mismanagement of our roads and infrastructure, and I blame both parties for this…!! It’s time our politicians stop politicking and put the best interest of our country (and state) before the interests of minority groups. For crying out loud Badgrey’s Creek was purchased by an “AUSTRALIAN” government some 20+ years ago for the specific purpose of Sydney’s 2nd airport; if you purchased in and around Badgrey’s Creek – you did so with the complete knowledge a 2nd Airport would be built there – I say suck it up, harden up and live by your choices – stop trying to force the buck onto others.

    To our political parties start building Sydney’s 2nd airport at Badgrey’s Creek already….!!!!

    Enough is enough…!!!!

  • 3
    Aidan Stanger
    Posted October 2, 2012 at 11:41 am | Permalink

    comet, the answer could be to approve it on a 30 year delay. That way the uncertainty ends, and everyone who is bothered by the noise gets ample time to sell to someone who isn’t.

    High speed rail and Richmond (plus upgrades to the existing airport) should satisfy Sydney’s needs for decades, but provision should be made for long term needs – including Badgerys AND Wilton.

  • 4
    Ben Sandilands
    Posted October 2, 2012 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

    If as ‘everyone’ expects, Sydney doubles in size to around 8.5 million people in the greater metro area by mid century, and that growth is facilitated in part by the economic benefits of a second jet airport then Aiden is I think right about a need for a third jet airport.

    However I don’t believe any government would demolish the housing now going up over the prime Wilton site, and the adjacent possibilities are undulating and crossed by complex shallow gullies, which is why that land was ignored by the farmers that developed the flat fertile lands of the western Sydney basin in the late 18th and 19th centuries.

    But Wilton is ‘almost’ right. If you track slightly NE into the Holsworthy military reserve you could actually do a very large airport and afford to build the gorge crossing bridges for runways and taxiways that would be needed at several points. Assuming the demand is there in 40 years time, and construction costs have continued to decline.

    The logical rail link point is Holsworthy station which is on the four track section now nearing completion on the East Hills Line, which will also form part of ‘secret’ link now being completed for the SW Rail project that will connect it to the Sydney Airport line using the very large graded separation overpass at Glenfields.

    Holsworthy station is about 15 kms, or so, from the International station at Sydney Airport, and the end of the line at a future Badgerys Creek station would be around 33 kilometres from the nearest of the two existing Sydney airport stations.

    There would be two ways to take rail passengers to a Holsworthy airport, one via a spur line that might in a much larger Sydney be an anchor for a future north-south metro rail link crossing existing lines at say Liverpool or Parramatta or Strathfield stations, or using an automated tram or light rail like you see at Paris Orly which connects passengers that arrive at Antony station on either the metro or RER with the airports two terminals.

    This is a way off in the future notion. I think the urgency of a full scale second jet airport for Sydney ASAP is the prerequisite for the growth in the city’s economy that will make a third airport essential. The Holsworthy site is also owned by the Commonwealth, even though it was never acquired for the purposes of being an airport.

  • 5
    Aidan Stanger
    Posted October 2, 2012 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

    Ben, I did as you suggested and tracked slightly NE from Wilton… and was surprised to discover Wedderburn Airport. Could this be extendablez.

    Tracking further to Holsworthy, it did strike me as easier to serve directly with VFTs than Wilton. But IIRC one of the main advantages of Wilton was being outside the Sydney air basin. Considering the increasing urbanization and decreasing tolerance of air pollution, would yet another airport so near be acceptable?

    As for the Wilton site, are they still building houses there now it’s the government’s preferred site for an airport?

    New airports aren’t needed ASAP, but they will be needed.

  • 6
    Jim Bob
    Posted October 2, 2012 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

    Here’s a project for a keen GIS Consultant in the Government: Presumably there is data about who flies in and out of Sydney Airport at the moment. Build a little map with the information by postcode and see where all those ‘end users’ are. If they happen to live around one of the proposed sites set them a challenge – whoever uses air travel the most in the next 5 years gets the airport.

  • 7
    Ben Sandilands
    Posted October 2, 2012 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

    If you were able to hover over Sydney the ‘basin’ and Wilton clearly sits well inside the higher ridge line of the Mittagong range which rises notably barrier like to its south, the more so when seated in a light single engined aircraft at low clearance over Wilton and headed straight for it. The natural drainage of the area is into the Nepean River which flows through western Sydney and along the foothills of the Blue Mountains until it becomes known as the Hawkesbury somewhere, I’m not sure where, north of Penrith.

  • 8
    Geoff
    Posted October 2, 2012 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

    I have put this forward before but why do we continue to talk in terms of a monolithic 2nd Sydney airports? Look at the number of airports that surround large North American cities and Melbourne and Brisbane and Develop Wollongong, Newcastle and Richmond so people can actually fly to where they want to go.

  • 9
    MikeR
    Posted October 2, 2012 at 9:40 pm | Permalink

    Geoff, your point is good but possibly has limited upside. Newcastle is already developing into an airport with substantial traffic, though I believe contrained by military requirements. Wollongong has little potential due to terrain – the local council has been pushing the cause for years but Air Services Australia won’t have a bar of it due to the height of the escarpment to the north (even though a number of existing airport aparently operate with worse obstacle clearances on a granfathered basis). I guess Richmond should be an option.

    But logically Badgerys Creek has many logistical benefits – it should be a no-brainer. In addition, it serves quite a large catchment population, much larger then Wilton.

  • 10
    moa999
    Posted October 2, 2012 at 10:26 pm | Permalink

    Newcastle may be a developing airport, but it will remain a pipe dream as a true Sydney airport.
    Putting any form of “VFT” transport from Sydney to Newcastle is somewhat difficult given the gradients posed by crossing the Hawkesbury

  • 11
    Steve777
    Posted October 3, 2012 at 8:37 am | Permalink

    The choice seems simple. Go for Badgery’s Creek and maybe have a second airport in 10 to 15 years (3 State Govt terms or 3 to 5 Federal terms), opened by whoever is PM in the mid 2020′s, or go for a new site and maybe have an airport when those currently graduating are entering retirement. Sydney has ‘urgently’ needed a second airport for 40 years but we’ve muddled through. It was being discussed in the 70′s.
    Actually, a second airport is a bit like action on climate change. The pain is now, with any benefits decades down the track. In these situations nothing usually gets done.

    My money is still on the airport never being built.

  • 12
    Ben Sandilands
    Posted October 3, 2012 at 9:19 am | Permalink

    Steve,

    I think that’s a safe bet. My view is that Sydney will continue to choke on its infrastructure failings, port, rail, road and by air, and gradually export its economic future to other easier parts of Australia in which to base productive economic activity. I believe that Melbourne and SE Queensland show that this is already happening.

    In due course, there will be a notable decline in the productive population of Sydney, which will see it inhabited by more people under or over working age, compared to the rest of the country, and that in turn will further diminish its capacity to fund its own infrastructure needs. A slow but vicious form of economic feedback.

    The more visible generators of high frequency air travel, and tax revenue (in a well managed economy) are those that hold short term leases on trophy skyscrapers in the CBD. If the demand for access to Sydney Airport from the Asia century economies is unrequited, those buildings will become emptier sooner.

    We don’t as a rule see the result of public policy failures in a stark or rapid deterioration, but I suspect that when it comes to health services, and personal mobility through all forms of transport, Sydney will suffer from its inability to solve either more quickly in the future than it has to date.

  • 13
    Aidan Stanger
    Posted October 3, 2012 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

    Steve, both of those options are inefficient. The cheap option (Richmond) can be built far more quickly. There’s plenty of scope to delay the need for another large airport – as long as we realise we can’t do so for ever.

  • 14
    Ben Sandilands
    Posted October 3, 2012 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

    Aiden, I’m not sure if you’ve ever tried to drive to Richmond from anywhere in the thick of Sydney suburbia or its business districts, but if you have I admire your tolerance.

    The runway is load limited for many domestic routes, never mind international long haul ones, and especially when it is hot.

    There is an obscure rule allowing scheduled airlines to operate up to four flights a day from the AFB. It has existed since before deregulation in 1989. None of the airlines are, so far, interested in taking up the opportunity.

  • 15
    Aidan Stanger
    Posted October 4, 2012 at 1:31 am | Permalink

    No, Ben, I’ve not tried it. One of Richmond’s biggest advantages is less need to drive there because there’s already a railway. But until you can catch a train directly to the terminal, the airlines will continue to be uninterested.

  • 16
    beetwo77
    Posted October 4, 2012 at 2:26 am | Permalink

    I agree some action needs to be taken, but I’m unconvinced of the real need for the second airport. The economic forecasts show huge headline economic losses of which almost all relate to passenger inconvenience and tourism. and most acrue out beyond 2035.

    This is really unconvincing in my view. It seems a number of studies suggest business travel is barely in the double digits and the rest is largely discretionary holiday travel and the like. I can’t really see this as good justification for putting more noise across more people.

    My view is that we should concentrate on high value added industries and making Sydney a more pleasant city to live in. Focus on air travel does none of these as it largely supports tourism and creates noise.

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