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Mar 2, 2012

Badgerys Creek 1, Wilton 2, in 2nd Sydney Airport recommendations

By chance, the writer has only limited access to the internet until late tonight because of other commitments The joint NSW/Federal Steering Committee report on Sydney's air


By chance, the writer has only limited access to the internet until late tonight because of other commitments

The joint NSW/Federal Steering Committee report on Sydney’s airport needs strongly recommends Badgery’s Creek as its most preferred option for a 2nd full scale Sydney Airport, and Wilton (near Appin) as its second.

In releasing the report (see full statement later in this report) the Transport Minister Anthony Albanese categorically ruled Badgery’s Creek out, and notes that the panel did not find worthwhile benefits from lifting the jet curfew or increasing the cap on hourly movements of 80 takeoffs and landings combined.

The report sees merit in developing the rail infrastructure of the partially built SW Rail link to serve Badgery’s Creek, which it seems to roll into the broader concept of an airport in the Nepean area, which it defines as including the Badgery’s Creek site.

An area in which the authors of the report and the Minister appear to be in complete agreement is the need to intervene in the management of Sydney Airport to achieve a much faster optimisation of the existing facilities to allow the airport to reach its full potential.

Or in blunter language, the timetable should be one that suits airport users, not the shareholders who own Sydney Airport.

It predicts that within a short period Sydney Airport will be patently unworkable because of access congestion as well as problems with the terminals, taxiways and other airline facilities within the airport site.

It recommends immediately lifting the surcharge for using the Airport Rail link stations at the International and Domestic sides of the airport to bring fares to them in line with normal city rail fares, not just to benefit travellers but allow more than 20,000 airline employees to have a cheap alternative to driving to work and adding to traffic gridlock at the airport.

The report finds that small turbo-prop airliners could be accommodated at Bankstown Airport at a frequency of up to 10 an hour.  While the CASA the safety regulator, and airliner insurers have been implacably opposed to the risks inherent in mixing general aviation and flying school with scheduled movements, it is an interesting part of the report, and of course, such risks are tolerated at Ballina and Port Macquarie in particular.

A more controversial recommendation is to allow access to the existing short runway at the Richmond Air Force Base in Sydney’s NW to jets up the same level of movements as the east-west runway at Sydney Airport.

The E/W runway at Sydney Airport is actually much longer than that at Richmond, but it could accommodate medium sized jets flying shorter distances.  The report recognises a possibility of building a longer north-south runway at Richmond, which would be much more politically difficult given the large spread of housing estates in its path, and it acknowledges that such a developments at Richmond and Bankstown, either in total, or in part, could not provide a long term solution to the congestion issues at Sydney Airport.

The Wilton site is discussed in some detail in the report, which does not at first reading, appear to recognise the large amount of new housing that is now selling on part of the land originally identified for an airport at Wilton when it was selected behind Badgery’s Creek as a one/two list of options by the MANS or Major Airport Needs of Sydney report in the mid-80s.

While the report could superficially be headlined as MANS revisited, some 26 years later, it is in fact much more substantial than that, with some invaluable insights into the current situation following such a long period of near total political neglect or inaction.

The report should be downloaded by the chapter or in full from this page here.

The statement by the Minister is published below.

The study, undertaken by an independent Steering Committee, shows with passenger demand in the Sydney region forecast to more than double by 2035 to 87 million passengers then double again by 2060, a long-term strategy is needed to meet this growth.

The economic consequences of failing to increase capacity include:

Australia is forecast to lose $6 billion in GDP by 2035
NSW is forecast to be hit hardest of all jurisdictions, losing $2.3 billion in GSP over the same period.

The 3,000-page report makes a range of recommendations for action in three areas: to allow Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport to operate to its full operational capacity, to protect and expand the role of other airports in the Sydney region, and to identify the site for a new airport to meet long-term growth.

There is no doubt there are difficult issues to resolve but the report is clear on the cost of delaying action.

Spare landing and take-off slots are already limited in the peak hours – by 2015 Sydney Airport will be severely constrained at peak times and by around 2030 no new growth will be possible.

The Committee does not support any change to the curfew and also points out that with the airport already close to capacity, increasing the cap in peak hours would only buy as little as a year.

I have already made it clear that the Federal Government will not make any changes to the current cap or curfew.

We will also maintain the current protections for regional airlines and Bankstown Airport will not be developed as Sydney’s second airport.

Further, I have consistently stated that the Government has ruled out the use of the Badgerys Creek site as a second airport and that remains our position.

The Federal Government will now commence consideration of the Committee’s recommendations.

I thank the Steering Committee for their comprehensive work and detailed consideration of the issues involved.

I look forward to continuing to work with the NSW Government on this important issue.

We are now seeking to establish a joint body with NSW to look at implementing a long-term strategy.

This is a matter of importance for Australia and it needs a bipartisan approach.




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