Dec 13, 2012

Everyone wins from Sydney transport plans, including Melbourne and Brisbane

Sydney could have a nice but modest tram network sometime this century, but just don't think of flying there

Ben Sandilands — Editor of Plane Talking

Ben Sandilands

Editor of Plane Talking

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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10 thoughts on “Everyone wins from Sydney transport plans, including Melbourne and Brisbane

  1. fractious

    Yet another “Plan” released by NSW for Sydney. Like all of them almost none of this will ever be delivered and then they’ll spend millions drafting another one in 5 years’ time that ignores most of this one. Yawn.

  2. Rob Sydney

    My, you really have an obsession with bagging Sydney. You really are a pessimist. It’s a real shame that you use your otherwise interesting site to air your personal biases. Of course, Melbourne and Brisbane must be perfect cities with absolutely no problems – well none that are reported on this website.

  3. Ben Sandilands


    You don’t get it. I care very much for Sydney. I even lived on Goat Island from 1949-1952 and enjoyed a working harbour childhood. I was the Sydney Morning Herald’s last full time Shipping Cadet.

    I care about Sydney too much to see it destroyed by dismal transport planning. Reciting the PR spin is death.

    Revel in the fact that most of the mainstream media agree very much with this scepticism.

  4. fractious

    “The NSW government does not support a second airport in the Sydney basin, which is why we need to ensure the existing asset is being fully utilised,” Mr O’Farrell said

    That looks pretty black-and-white to me. So – barring the propensity of politicians to turn on a threepenny bit – presmuably that scuppers any rumours that NSW Inc were about to wrongfoot the Federal Govt. on a second airport at Badgerys Creek.

  5. fractious

    Via Lenore Taylor’s SMH article:

    In this peculiar “Plan” O’Farrell is proposing to up the cap from 80 to 85 and allow more flights during the 11pm-midnight and 5am-6am “shoulder” periods. Whether or not that will help in any measurable way is one thing but what’s interesting is the reaction from O’Farrell’s Federal LNP mates. Joe Hockey seems to wonder what O’Farrell is smoking and as the article points out the decision to change cap and curfew limits is a Federal matter, not a state one, and both the Coalition and Labor have ruled any changes out.

    So after all the hullabaloo surrounding this super-duper “Plan”, we’re back to square one.

  6. Ben Sandilands

    While I don’t compare notes with my colleagues in the print media, I think everyone is talking to much the same sources, and it would be fair to say that there has never been more unanimity as to how the 2nd airport issue is being assessed. O’Farrell’s comments are in my opinion aimed more at his parliamentary colleagues and Federal counterparts than anyone else at the moment.

  7. Agfox

    @Robert Sydney Someone airing personal biases on THEIR blog – geeze, who’d have thought that could happen!

    Ben, I’m interested in whether you think there’s any sort of ‘tipping point’ in the foreseeable future that will initiate construction of a second Sydney airport

  8. Ben Sandilands


    There are too many variables to juggle to answer your question.

    I’m a legacy model journalist who always thought blogging was something done in a handkerchief.

    But the profitless rise of on-line reporting has accompanied a severe decline in the resources that used to pay for journalists who saw themselves as working for a publisher rather than being ciphers for messages that are managed and massaged by PR consultants.

    Plane Talking is more about un-spinning or cutting through the messaging than it is about my opinions, which I try to keep in check, or at least, clearly identify.

    I have seen offers to aviation stakeholders to purchase editorial support packages and I am aware of writers who see themselves as providing communications solutions.

    Neither of these things happen here.

    Where I think it is useful I will quote the PR messages, but this is a new phase of news reporting and analysis, where those readers who care to, can click through to source material, or cut through to matters that PR manages, filters and spins. I want to assist and encourage such behaviour.

  9. Geoff

    So we’ver also hit on another thing wrong with the way Government is conducted in Australia!

    Quote from Fractious: Joe Hockey seems to wonder what O’Farrell is smoking and as the article points out the decision to change cap and curfew limits is a Federal matter, not a state one, and both the Coalition and Labor have ruled any changes out.

    Regardless of the history behind it, why is a Federal Government making decisions which effectively discriminate against the ability of NSW to undertake inter-state trade? I thoght that was forbidden in the Constitution. Queensland and Victoria can of course continue trading with the rest of Australia around the clock.

    Have individual airport limitations such as movement rates and curfews ever been challenged in the High Court?

  10. Ben Sandilands

    Very interesting questions. Unaware of any such case law.

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