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Nov 12, 2012

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There are two very big problems with NSW Treasurer Mike Baird’s plan for a Botany Bay expansion of Sydney Airport, despite its advantages when it was first proposed more than 50 years ago.

1: No matter how many runways Sydney Airport gets, it is legally limited to 80 flights an hour, and

2: It is useless for serving the western half of Sydney, which is generating massive and growing demand

There are of course other issues including the excessive concentration of additional flights, and ground access congestion, that would arise if the laws that limit air traffic frequency at the existing pocket sized Sydney Airport were to be repealed.

The idea of developing an airport on the southern shore of Botany Bay began in the late 1940s when Bill Bradfield, the youngest son of the chief engineer and joint designer of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, Dr JJ Bradfield, headed the public administration of aviation in Australia and proposed a combined flying boat and airliner hub at Towra Point, a prominent sand spit on the western side of the bay that stretches much of the way toward Sandringham.

At the time, long range flying boats were part of the future of post war airline plans world wide, and Sydney had a second airport in the form of the flying boat base at Rose Bay, which for much of the harbourside population, was a noisy nuisance, if spectacular for passengers on the Manly ferries when a roaring double decker four engined flying boat charged past them.

Just before the start of this century Bill Bradfield and the IAC advisory group proposed what was in effect a very large expansion of Sydney Airport’s capacity on the southern shores of Botany Bay, parallel to Towra point and some distance to the SW of Kurnell, even though it was often described as the Kurnell option.

It could have equally been called the Wanda Beach or Greenhills option, since the southern end of the main runway for the plan would have reached the northern edge of the remnant sand dunes that separated Botany Bay and its mangrove shores from the long line of surf breaks that stretched toward Kurnell from Wanda Beach.

The writer became a friend of Bradfield in the years before his death in 2006. In that time Bradfield often discussed the potential for shifting smaller regional turbo-props and jets to a single runway parallel to headings of the main north-south runway at Sydney Airport but located to the east of Towra Point and to the west of the edge of the desalination plant.

The merit of this much less costly proposal was that if those aircraft could be considered as not included in the 80 movement limit because of their negligible noise their relocation would add significant capacity to the main airport by removing country flights from the mix.

It was also proposed that a road and rail tunnel or bridge could link Kurnell to La Perouse under or over the mouth of Botany Bay, allowing not just easy connections between the satellite terminal and runway with the main airport, but triggering a major change in the transport map and population distribution of greater Sydney by connecting the Cronulla-Sutherland peninsula on the southern side of Botany Bay to the eastern suburbs and CBD of Sydney by a new and more efficient route, with the potential to extend the eastern suburbs railway from Bondi Junction down along its originally planned route to Kingsford to continue beyond to La Perouse and then on to link into the rail line at Cronulla.

Any connection between Kurnell and La Perouse is going to dramatically transform Sydney, with or without an airport component.

The most important revelation in the Telegraph’s story is one which has been touched on here in recent times, which is that there is no practicable site for a 2nd Sydney Airport at Wilton, which is currently under study at the direction of the federal Infrastructure and Transport Minister, Anthony Albanese, after his rejection of the endorsement by an independent panel of the site the Commonwealth already owns at Badgerys Creek.

There was a site at Wilton. It now has housing estates on it. The other nearby sites are too undulating to be seriously considered from an engineering point of view, and compared to Badgerys Creek, Wilton is very second rate in its location and relevance to the air travel market.

Sydney has a choice in airport policy. Build Badgerys Creek, or choke.

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