Aug 19, 2013

Singapore sends Sydney an airport reminder

While we continue to get nonsense from the NSW government and the federal government and opposition in their evasions concerning the Sydney Airport crisis,

Ben Sandilands — Editor of Plane Talking

Ben Sandilands

Editor of Plane Talking

While we continue to get nonsense from the NSW government and the federal government and opposition in their evasions concerning the Sydney Airport crisis, a memo, in effect has arrived from Singapore. The city state is doubling the size of its airport, to handle more than 100 million passengers a year in the coming decade, by which time Sydney will no doubt continue to flounder around protecting the interest of the current airport owners, and maybe wonder why it has declined toward much reduced relevance to the NSW and Australian economy. And comedy capers, in which Tigerair flies to Richmond, the least convenient part of the Sydney sprawl by any measure, will just be one of the bad jokes of the past. There are so many things that the Singapore announcement tells Sydney, if its political managers care to listen instead of mucking around with toy train tunnels and half witted harbour helicopter fiascos. But one of them is very direct. It's the Asian Century. If you want to participate in it you have to build the necessary infrastructure, in Sydney, and not stuff around with hugely wasteful exercises in looking for runway sites in the canyons, water catchments and coal mining precincts of Wilton when a really good site is already owned by the Commonwealth at Badgerys Creek. The other is less direct, but if the various reports from Singapore are found and read, it is apparent that even being as deeply embedded in Asia as Singapore is doesn't guarantee or deliver full participation in the Asian Century.  Singapore, and its airline, are in a massive struggle to keep what it has, and grow it to its potential. Where is the recognition and committment these issues need among our political leaders? Nowhere, it seems, other than in voters disaffected with both parties in this poll in The Telegraph. Sydney Airport took 36.9 million passengers to 31 December 2012. The infographic for Singapore Airport below shows it served over 51 million travellers.

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12 thoughts on “Singapore sends Sydney an airport reminder

  1. michael r james

    Hey, did you see just a few minutes ago on ABC 7.30, that the man in the big white hat is batting for Badgerys Creek if he gets any power (possible one of a number of independent Senators that might feasibly control the Senate)!
    Is this good, or not so good, for the cause?

  2. michael r james

    “Where is the recognition and commitment these issues need among our political leaders?”

    I guess most hopes that Rudd was that political leader have disappeared. His fractious relationship with the Chinese mostly seemed unnecessary, and ego-driven rather than by matter of national interest. While he has the knowledge and intelligence to bring Australia deeper into Asia–like his hero Gough–it seems he will always allow his Napoleon complex to rule.

    If Abbott gets into the hotseat it is almost unimaginable. I reckon it will be worse than just Howard MkII, because at least Howard was quite pragmatic most of the time. Abbott with his Oxford Rhodie infection* loves all things defined by the British old-school conservatives (who barely exist anymore) will of course try to be pragmatic but just like everything else of importance (econo-policy; gender issues; gay issues, almost anything progressive) he cannot help himself.

    *Oxford either infects one forever with the love of all things establishment-British, or (like me, something I share with Rupert, both at Oxford almost 40 years apart) it inoculates you forever against same.

  3. AngMoh

    There is one other important announcement you forgot to mention. That is the closure of Paya Lebar airport, moving of the military operations to a new Changi Airbase to be build on reclaimed land next to the current airport (and probably all the non military activities to be moved to Seletar Aerospace Park).
    What this does is first make a huge plot of land available for development, but also removes height restriction over 1/3 of Singapore. This will lead to land sales for the empty land, and redevelopment charges for buildings which are torn down and replaced with higher ones (effectively virtual land charges). This property related income will probably pay for Changi extension 10 times over…

    Maybe another idea for the old Sydney Airport??

  4. michael r james

    AngMoh at 9:58 pm
    “Maybe another idea for the old Sydney Airport??”

    Absolutely and something I have been explicit about in The Age and Crikey several years ago. BenS is probably less enthusiastic about that idea but in the end I reckon it is better to have one megahub (at Badgerys Ck or the Canberra + HSR option) that can operate 24/7 instead of two airports, one of which will continue to make the claim of “convenience” (being next to the CBD). The airlines would eventually agree to everything moving to Badgerys because it is better to have the single 24/7 hub than try to be running from two airports in the one city.

    Such a concept requires impeccable a public transport (and road) network, but what are we, a world city wannabee or perpetually close to the edge of third world status? Almost by definition any polity that was able to grasp and promote such an idea would also be motivated to bring Sydney’s PT into the 21st century. (For a comparison to the current state government’s weird ideas, check out Jacob Saulwick’s article over the weekend: “Experts and plenty of evidence suggest Transport for NSW is on the wrong track with its push for single-deck trains in Sydney.”

  5. Ben Sandilands

    There are in my opinion good reasons why so called megahubs that involve the closure of and consolidation of existing airports may not, and I stress may not, but may well, work in some locations.

    In Sydney’s case the problerm of the western half not having an airport and the eastern half having one that is dying of congestion is that you flip the problem, solving the needs in the west, and causing a mass migration of travel generating corporate headquarters in the east, not to western Sydney, but somewhere else. Which would be a decision encouraged by its loss of a working harbour and really bad road and public transport infrastructure and services.

    Unless a state is run by a figure like Pol Pot, you also face massive resistance to massive confiscation of property, wealth and jobs, all to force air traffic through the prism of a single megahub, for people who will flee the city long before they accept such catastrophic interventions, depriving it of purpose or potential.

    All of that said, there are indeed cases where airport consolidation makes sense. It is a matter of historic if obscure record that Manhattan expelled its original airstrip from Central Park and Melbourne closed the runway at Fisherman’s Bend, practically atop the site of Dockland’s today, in favour of Essendon.

    Those decision were of course not the result of far seeing vision, but urban interests in times when urban planning was a somewhat esoteric notion.

    My view is to let common sense and practicality be the guiding considerations in matters of transport infrastructure including airports.

    It is interesting in planning circles and city development forums to see continuous recognition that the future of much of the ‘metro’ world is for a matrix of development, similar to what wee see between Osaka and Tokyo, where there is almost no open space, just a continuous city, into which are embedded airports, and the arteries of the headless entity are rail lines, roads and the fine veinous structure of metro style feeder networks.

    In such a future the term megahub loses both its compass and its rationale. It is, with all the attendant problems it brings, a likely fate for much of the developed world in the 21st century.

  6. michael r james

    I think you stretch your logic to breaking point. Of course I know there would be massive political resistance, especially in Australia, including business types (who I suppose, want to be chauffered in limos or drive their own mercs to the airport).
    And there are a lot more excellent examples than those ancient ones you give, notably Berlin (closing two of three), HK, Kansai, Narita, Dulles (only the fed pollies stop the closure of Reagan National as a domestic airport). And JFK & CDG.

    The point is that you yourself say that Badgerys is well provisioned with transport; and they should build an express RER type PT that gets people to Paramatta, Sydney Central and North Sydney in 30 mins. or less. Any town planner knows that it is better to do that than spend $10 billion on the West-Connex motorway which, like all such mega road projects to cure congestion, will never cure congestion but in fact induce even more congestion–which, in turn, interferes with the primary and irreplaceable function of Port Botany as a seaport!

    I understand and support the megacity as matrix. Most such cities have haphazardly evolved towards that but Shanghai has an explicit plan for it with ten satellite cities. BUT not with multiple megahubs or large airports. The Pudong airport will remain as the major hub for the entire Shanghai megalopolis supplemented by Shanghai Hongqiao (supposed to eventually be linked by the MagLev) and Hangzhou to the south, and the whole linked by HSR (and roads including that “longest bridge over water” opened just a few weeks ago).

    Here is an extract from M. Smith’s article in yesterday’s AFR:
    [At 800 hectares, Sydney Airport is Australia’s smallest capital city airport in terms of land area. Passenger numbers are expected to hit 74.3 million by 2033, double the 36.9 million of last year. Its proximity to the city makes it one of the most conveniently located major airports in the world but this is also the reason for the choking restrictions on flights.
    Sydney Airport’s ability to deflect the push for a second airport hinges on its ability to address the short-term strains on infrastructure. The capacity debate will heat up in coming months as pressure intensifies for a decision on a new airport, expected at Badgerys Creek if the Coalition wins government. New technology may go some way to alleviating the pressure but only marginally.]

  7. michael r james

    I am sure you have seen this in today’s SMH:

    Job creation swings debate in favour of new Sydney airport
    Jacob Saulwick, August 20, 2013

    [The shifting terms of the airport debate, whether or not the government should build a new one nearby, has become a symptom of the essential problem that confronts the area: a lot of people live in Macarthur, but there are very few jobs about. Instead, commuters confront the mortal coil of the M5 motorway to get to the city, or climb onto crowded trains on the East Hills line.
    ”With all the development there is this real change in mindset towards new infrastructure,” said Pat Farmer, who held the seat (Macarthur) as a Liberal from 2001 to 2009. Farmer says he protested a potential airport at Badgerys Creek when he first won the seat. But if he was still the MP these days, he says, he would support it.
    ”It has gone from being a predominantly rural region into being an exciting hub for young families,” said Farmer, who infamously moved out of the area to Mosman while still an MP. ”But the mindset has altered. It is all about where do our kids go to work.”

    Fulton (Labor candidate), who says he is drawn to politics to improve prospects for young people in the region, is also backing an airport at Badgerys Creek based on the economic need.]

  8. Ben Sandilands


    Years ago I predicted that public opinion would ultimately lead to political pressure to build Badgery’s Creek. But, gee, it has taken its time.

    Re your earlier comment about building a decent RER for Badgery’s Creek. Two points.

    Now that they work Sydney’s three most recent versions of a suburban duplex including the rare Oscars with on board ‘loo are in my opinion much better trains that the RERs currently comprising most of the double decker fleet used on those lines. I think one is still single deck. We don’t need to build anything in that sense, but we do need to extend the SW Rail link now nearing completion to the Badgery”s Creek terminal when the project goes ahead. Most of the way is level and above ground construction friendly. Reinforced cut and cover would probably work for the section within the airport, or depending on where the terminal was built, it might continue above ground to it.

    It could also be extended readily to the north to link more directly with the western line at whatever station seems optimal, while the SW Rail interchange at Glenfield using same level platforms is ideal for N-S rail, and if my submission on the fast rail project is adopted, for that as well, on relocation of the HSR Sydney South station to Glenfield.

    The SW Rail link is designed (by a genuis who is now probably in hiding) to be in effect an extension of the existing airport line.

    I’m lurching towards optimism that this rail potential will be realised on construction of the new airport.

  9. michael r james

    Ben, I’ll take your word for those recent versions of suburban duplex trains because I am certainly not au current. But interesting that you bring it up because that is exactly the subject of Jacob Saulwick’s weekend article criticizing Gladys Berejiklian’s plan to scrap double-deckers. Saulwick was visiting Alstom’s plant in Valenciennes and mentioned in almost identical terms as I did (here on your blog on 5 Aug) the capacity of RER Line A trains (2600 pax with a three door configuration that allows fast loading/unloading; up to 60,000 pax per hour on each track!) that they build there.

    He was reporting how all the experts and engineers disagree with the current NSW govt’s insistence that single-deckers will improve throughput. And worse that they are going to build the NW tunnels that can NEVER take such trains! (Shades of Robert Moses in the 30s when he deliberately built NYC’s Parkways without sufficient clearance for PT!)

    [Professor Keith Still, from Bucks New University in Britain, said he found double-deck trains more efficient, having better ‘‘dwell times, more seats, more comfort for longer distances,’’ on his modelling. It is ‘‘crazy that they are going to exclude the double-deckers if they build the tunnels for single-decker only,’’ he said.]

    BTW, I recall that the first RER double deckers (for line A) were indeed modelled on Sydney’s double-deckers.

    Funny about your comment on loos. Here is Saulwick again:
    [At Valenciennes, which Fairfax Media toured at the expense of Alstom, they make ‘‘tram trains’’ for the city of Nantes that run slowly through the city centre, speed up when they hit the suburbs, and are some of the few trams in the world to have toilets on them. They make single-deck Metro trains that run without drivers on Line1 in the centre of Paris. This is the line with the most bustle in the city – trains need to run every two minutes in the peak hour lest platforms become overwhelmed with passengers.]

  10. Ben Sandilands

    Saulwick’s report was the main driver behind this post which you might not have seen.

    The reporting on airport and rail matters by the SMH and The Telegraph has been very good of late. Putting aside the odd but entertaining outbreak of feral ‘lection reporting in the latter.

  11. michael r james

    Excuse me for banging on about it (I suppose it is because it kinda vindicates my obsession about Paris transport) but here is more Saulwick:

    [(Transport for NSW ) says Sydney’s new single-deck trains will be able to carry ‘‘up to 1300 people’’ each and the system will be able to run at 30 trains an hour. In contrast, it says, the ‘‘brand new Waratah double-deck trains can currently carry about 1200 people at up to 20 trains per hour’’.
    A visit to Valenciennes makes it difficult to accept these numbers. The single-deck trains Alstom is making for Paris’ Line1 at Valenciennes, which have very few seats, carry about 720 people in six cars, with fewer than 150 sitting.
    Meanwhile, the double-deck trains it is making for the RER A Line – the one that takes people from the suburbs long distances through the city – carry 2600 people, with about 950 seated. (There are fewer seats on Paris’ double-deck trains than in Sydney, because each carriage has a third door on each side to make it easier for people to get on and off. Nevertheless, a recent survey of commuters on RER A found 88 per cent thought the newest double-deck trains were more pleasant than other types of rolling stock.)
    In other words, if Transport for NSW is to be believed, the trains it will buy for the north-west rail link will carry almost twice the number of people as the busiest single-deck train on the Paris Metro. And even Berejiklian’s new head of Sydney Trains does not accept it is possible to run 20 only double-deck trains an hour.
    ‘‘Let me be a little bit controversial here, because you’ve got to be a bit,’’ Howard Collins, the Londoner newly installed to run Sydney’s train system, told a business lunch last week. ‘‘Double-deck trains – go to Paris – see how the RER pounds those trains at 24 trains an hour,’’ he said. ‘‘The design is different, they’re still double deck, but there are solutions.’’ Collins commutes to the city from Woolooware in the Sutherland Shire. The hour-long commute might explain his growing affection for trains with more seats.
    In Valenciennes, meanwhile, they are working on a prototype for a new double-deck train to run on Paris’s RER E line, where the single-deck trains are becoming overcrowded.]

    It is clear Saulwick has nothing but contempt for Sydney transport planners. It’s true for Brisbane and seemingly Melbourne has now been struck with the same disease. Some of their decisions and what drives them are just inexplicable and mysterious.

  12. michael r james

    Oops. Sorry, I completely missed that post of yours! (And posted my last comment before seeing your last.)

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