Somewhat overshadowed by the resignation of NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell this morning Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced $2.9 billion in new road works over eight years to improve access to the $2.5 billion estimated cost of the first stage of a second Sydney Airport at the Commonwealth owned Badgerys Creek site.
The deputy PM, and Minister for Transport, Warren Truss, also took the stress burden off the PM when it comes to mentioning rail by giving his support to defining a rail corridor that would go through the new airport to Penrith.
Presumably from Leppington, which is the current terminus of the soon to open SW Rail Link, which is close to the Badgerys Creek site across open flat ground, and which in its entirety was always intended to be a second Sydney Airport rail link, which is a westerly extension of the current East Hills/Airport line which already connects with the main north-south rail line at the newly rebuilt Glenfield station and through it the main western line.
There may be a public discussion at some stage as to whether Penrith is the best destination of a northerly extension of the line through Badgerys Creek, however Penrith, and other possible links points such as Blacktown or Parramatta are already subject to substantial office block, retail and other commercial property growth.
While the outgoing Premier also broke through years of waffle by starting work on a NW Rail Project for Sydney, which could readily be linked at two points to the metropolitan network where it conveniently offers connections to the current and second airport, he unfortunately had another brain fade by insisting on tunnels that will only take single deck trains.
This means that none of the double decker rolling stock that works well for longer distance metropolitan rail services in Sydney will be able to run out to the growing and more distant suburbs of north western Sydney.
O’Farrell deserves a better legacy than a botched NW Rail link, or an especially costly bottle of forgotten Grange from a Liberal party supporter under investigation over the Sydney Water affair. Like Abbott, he acted decisively to do something about Sydney infrastructure paralysis, whether or not those actions prove optimal in their fine detail.
Tony Abbott’s comments at today’s somewhat distracted media conference, at which O’Farrell was the missing party, made it clear that new road works would be well underway before the end of this year, and airport construction would begin by the end of 2016, with or without the participation of the existing Sydney Airport owners, who have first right of refusal to own its future competitor.
By world standards, something as simple as a single runway airport ought to be completed well before the eight years of additional roadworks announced by the PM.