Jan 29, 2013

Tourism lobby takes on political paralysis over Sydney Airport

Australia's main tourism lobby the TTF has included some peripheral airport proposals for Sydney in its recommendations that just won't work and may blunt its main aim, which is to see Badgerys Creek built

Ben Sandilands — Editor of Plane Talking

Ben Sandilands

Editor of Plane Talking

Expanded to take in Newcastle and Bankstown  recommendations

Only days after federal opposition leader Tony Abbott launched his election campaign in Sydney’s West without making any reported reference to the move for a 2nd Sydney Airport in the area but talking up jobs the Tourism and Transport Forum has released a position paper recommending its construction at Badgerys Creek.

The TTF has also urged a modest relaxation of the jet curfew and an increase in the movement limitations at the existing airport from 80 to 90 an hour.

But it is election year, and neither side of politics has dared officially get behind Badgerys Creek as the only solution to a substantial and accessible lift in airline capacity for the Sydney basin.

The federal government, through Infrastructure and Transport Minister Anthony Albanese, is overdue by some weeks in its expected release of an ‘independent’ review of a site at Wilton, where the existing second best site for a second airport that was identified in 1986 has now been totally compromised by new housing estates that are no doubt home to some former Labor voters.

It has been obvious to blind Freddy or anyone with local knowledge, or a spare hour or two to go and take a look, that Wilton is both a worthless and frankly silly option.  Which continues to raise the question as to why Labor is so committed to screwing up yet another policy setting, and who or what it is looking after in its determination to foist a very poor choice of location on Sydney.

Nevertheless, sometime next year, in the first year of the next federal government,  the SW Rail project should be close to completion, stopping only a short distance in engineering and construction terms from the Badgerys Creek site, and a potential destiny as a good metropolitan rail system connection to a new airport.

The TTF report also refers to providing Sydney’s main airport with some relief from congestion by freeing up restrictions on commercial flights at Bankstown, the general aviation aerodrome to its west and Newcastle.

Those suggestions are probably not going to go anywhere. Bankstown would be ruled out by CASA and the main airline insurers on the basis that mixing even small airliners with a training airport with a fairly consistent record for serious incidents and crashes would be out of the question. Bankstown can take even a medium sized aircraft in an emergency, or a serious weather diversion, as happened only recently when it suddenly hosted  a Qantaslink turbo-prop, but its runways are too short for serious domestic contributions, too hazardous without the expulsion of general aviation, and surrounded by houses and surprisingly inconvenient to reach by public and private transport.

Newcastle’s airport at Williamtown is an RAAF base in which civil movements are tolerated from a leased terminal. The ADF plans for Williamtown are totally at odds with any major expansion of scheduled flights, and the sunk investment in the air force facilities and its use of a nearby weapons range. Displacing this part of Australia’s defence program just to cater for anyone who might be induced to drive for several hours up a notoriously congested motorway, is an heroic suggestion.

What would however offer a small degree of relief to Sydney airport would be a private development on a site on the central coast, which would involve a 2600 metre runway, which would allow domestic flights with full payloads to anywhere in Australia, and New Zealand and much of SE Asia and nearer Oceania.

That proposal, which has been reported earlier,  doesn’t really do very much to cope with demand at Sydney Airport, but at the risk to any private group that were to develop it, there would be the prospect of giving the Gosford-Wyong area a major boost, and catering for growth in Newcastle that cannot be accommodated at the RAAF facility at Williamtown.

It would be a shame if the main recommendation of the TTF report received less attention than it merits because of the distractions that the Bankstown and Newcastle proposals might cause.

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