Sydney's Epping underground, what chance has it of ever linking up with Parramatta or a Sydney West airport?
Sydney's Epping underground. What chance has it of ever linking up with Parramatta or a Sydney West airport?

Tiger’s confirmation of a deal with Avalon Airport sends a very sharp message to Sydney, which is ‘build a second airport at Badgery’s Creek.’

No, of course Sydney won’t listen. Nor will the Rudd Government nor the Abbott opposition, nor either side of NSW politics. Sydney is going to continue is slide into infrastructure grid lock, and discourage businesses that generate air travel, and maritime commerce for that matter.

But let’s get this on the record. The Avalon situation, where the Melbourne has a second airport, with different owners, has broken the monopoly pricing power of its main airport, Melbourne International at Tullamarine.

Avalon's wide open spaces today and a glimpse, below, of what it can look like if it follows the low cost carrier growth trajectory of London's Stansted Airport, courtesy BAA.
Avalon's wide open spaces today and a glimpse, below, of what it can look like if it follows the low cost carrier growth trajectory of London's Stansted Airport, courtesy BAA.

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The Sydney situation is that of a city held to ransom by outrageous airport charges compared to the the other major Australian cities,with its sole jet airport occupying a constrained site which even the Federal Government has acknowledged is unable to cope with expected growth beyond 2025.

And even though Melbourne’s main airport is seven times as far from its CBD as Sydney’s airport is, the harbour city has surrounded what should be Australia’s most convenient airport with a road and rail shambles that a succession of state governments have been incapable of addressing.

It is a case of the rapacious confined by the incompetent.

Both Sydney and Melbourne are expanding to the west. At the bottom of the areas where housing and business can best expand west in Melbourne is Avalon airport. It has all the room it needs to become a much larger airport, and with a comparatively minor augmentation of the existing Geelong-Southern Cross terminal railway, it can in time have a high speed connection that would integrate easily into Melbourne’s regular public transport options.

In roughly the same location in relation to Sydney, a small but adequate amount of space has been reserved for a second jet airport at Badgery’s Creek. It could be readily accessed from Sydney’s major motorway network by short links to the M7, M4 and even M5. There is a lot of travel demand in Sydney today that could reach Badgery’s Creek airport faster than it can access the Fortress Macquarie Bank airport, and it could be linked to the completion of the Chatswood-Parramatta railway which only made it as far as Epping, except that it is a Sydney project, so this is unlikely to ever happen.

But while Melbourne sees its south-western second airport at Avalon galvanised along the path to major expansion by the competition between the low cost clones Jetstar and Tiger at its facilities, with other carriers likely to follow in the nearer term, Sydney is left waiting for yet another search to choose a site for a second Sydney Airport which won’t even be remotely anywhere near to the Sydney market.

It’s a situation that ensures Sydney becomes perpetually disadvantaged in terms of competitive airport access.

In Melbourne there is no barrier to Avalon being both a domestic and international competitor to Tullamarine in the future. And in serving both of its airports, Tiger and Jetstar demonstrate one of the characteristics of the low cost carrier model, which is to rely on inexpensive point-to-point opportunities to fly, rather than opting for legacy carrier hub-and-spoke concentrations which can on one hand offer lots of connections to travellers, but extract a high price in longer journey times and higher fares, both of which go against the original purpose of air travel, which is to save time and money.

In as little as 10 years from now Avalon will be a busy and useful airport locked in competition with a Tullamarine Airport which will also continue to grow as Melbourne attracts the economic growth that Sydney wilfully discourages.

It would take a miracle in terms of political resolve to fix Sydney’s infrastructure problems and arrest the decline so evident today in all its transport modes.

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