Not a fast train from Sydney's Canberra airport, but a slow tram from Kensington, as revealed today

There are winners everywhere in today’s launch of a new Sydney transport plan, including in its economic rivals of Melbourne and Brisbane.

The headline catching component of the new plan is a much expanded light rail network which will go all the way from Central Station to Circular Quay, mostly up George Street, and almost as far to the SE as Maroubra and Coogee Beaches.

It looks good. It could be so good it might have to be augmented by underground express metro lines rather like the RER in Paris, some time on the far side of 2050!

But the win for Melbourne and Brisbane comes from the self-inflicted constraints of not building a second Sydney airport, as also announced today.

The NSW government clearly doesn’t think the western half of Sydney needs the air services that are normally part of the growth of commerce and social mobility in what in its own right is a city of around two million people condemned to second rate infrastructure and job opportunities.

Too bad. Australia will find its way in the Asia century without Sydney retaining its leading gateway pretensions, and would benefit from not having to financially support any serious attempt to overcome the beautiful harbour city’s transport deficiencies on a broad scale and in a shorter term, given the enormity of the problems facing not just its airport, but its road, rail and port facilities.

There are things in the transport plan, including the new trams, that are going to be immensely popular and useful, should they be built. But ultimately, this is not just about a Little Sydney, but a Little Eastern and Northern Sydney, strangled by an airport relevant to half of it and capable of meeting about one quarter of natural demand. Fixing this may not be worth the effort, and it could well be too late to try.

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