The announcement of the preferred orientation in an east-west direction for Melbourne Airport’s third runway to come into operation between 2018-2022 should allow NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell to keep his promise not to build a second Sydney Airport.

It will readily take all the extra flights from China and the rest of Asia that intended to use Sydney Airport until at least 2025, and the extra economic activity that it would have brought to the harbour city.

If Mr O’Farrell has his way, Canberra will be Sydney’s 2nd airport courtesy of a presumably free fast train by then paid for by the redistributed taxes from more intelligently run states, except that one hemisphere of his brain appears to have approved a housing estate in NSW that will cripple Canberra airport anyhow.

Melbourne Airport exists in a very different environment to Sydney. The city has a second airport at Avalon that is little used but has huge potential as its western precincts expand, and is contemplating a third airport at Tooradin or a similar site closer to the south eastern sprawl, meaning its dominant airport cannot get away with monopoly pricing and gouge the Melbourne economy as thoroughly as has been the case with Sydney Airport and Sydney.

Meanwhile the dark comedy of the quest for the 2nd Sydney Airport flickers in and out of view.

The ‘free’ pre-owned site at Badgerys Creek is going to kept safe for real estate developers by Federal Labor even as the SW Rail link inches closer to a point where it could connect it easily to the rest of the metropolitan network,  while yet another expert but far too independent panel  tries to gently the break the news to Infrastructure Minister Anthony Albanese that the decreed and officially anointed site at Wilton is about as smart from an engineering point of view as O’Farrell’s fixation with the Canberra option that no-one can, or will, actually use.

This is the Melbourne Airport statement:

Melbourne Airport has announced the preferred orientation for its third runway which will be included in the airport’s draft Master Plan to be published for public comment in early 2013.

Melbourne Airport CEO, Chris Woodruff, said the airport proposed the construction of a new east-west runway to provide additional capacity for the forecast growth in aircraft movements at Melbourne Airport by the end of this decade.

“The Melbourne Airport draft Master Plan envisages that a new runway will be needed around 2018-2022 to meet the demand from domestic and international airlines as the number of passengers travelling through Melbourne continues to grow.

“Passenger numbers are forecast to reach 40 million by the end of the decade, and more than 60 million by 2033.”

The proposed third runway will operate in parallel to the existing east-west runway (RWY 09/27) as well as the existing north-south runway (RWY 16/34). The new runway will be approximately 3000 metres in length and 60 metres wide. It will be capable of handling aircraft up to the size of an A380.

Mr Woodruff said a range of criteria had been assessed in making the decision to select the east-west runway orientation. These included the capacity the runway provided to cater for future demand; community and environmental impacts; operational requirements and the cost of construction.

“A new east-west runway will enable Melbourne Airport to handle more aircraft movements, more efficiently. Passengers will spend less time on the ground taxiing to and from terminals, and aircraft will burn less fuel on more direct flight paths and shorter trips from the gate to the runway,” Mr Woodruff said.

The proposed east-west runway would have a capital cost of around $500 million and a construction period of between two and four years.

Mr Woodruff said the development of a third runway was consistent with the ultimate development concept for Melbourne Airport, and previous Master Plans had always envisaged a third and fourth runway being constructed.

The noise and planning overlays for Melbourne Airport have also reflected the impact of a third and fourth runway. The ‘noise contours’ for Melbourne Airport will be updated in the 2013 draft Master Plan to reflect the proposed third runway.

“We expect there will only be a slight variation to the noise contours which are used for planning purposes compared to the current contours. However, there will be some areas within the existing noise contours that will experience more aircraft flying overhead as a result of the construction of a new runway,” Mr Woodruff said.

“In the course of planning for a third runway, we will be working closely with various stakeholders, including Airservices Australia, on measures to minimize the noise impact on our neighbours, while ensuring we continue to operate the airport in the most efficient way possible,” Mr Woodruff said.

The proposed third runway will be shown in the draft Master Plan for Melbourne Airport, which will be submitted, to the Commonwealth Government for approval in 2013. This is a requirement of the Commonwealth Airports Act 1996. The draft Master Plan, including the updated noise contours, will be issued for public consultation in the first quarter of 2013. Following the public comment period, the draft master plan is submitted to the Commonwealth Minister for Infrastructure and Transport. When approved, the Master Plan sets out the future development of the airport over the next two decades.

The construction of a third runway will require a separate planning, consultation and approval process, which is expected to be carried out by 2015/16. A new runway would have a construction time frame of two to four years, with the new runway proposed to be operational around 2018-2022.

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