Badgerys Creek: A positive step forward but fast rail remains the silver bullet

 

On 2-May-2017, the Blue Swan Daily reported that Sydney Airport Group decided it would not develop and operate the Western Sydney Airport (WSA), Badgerys Creek. We said “let the games begin” and they certainly have.

Overnight, the Turnbull Government confirmed it has decided to build the WSA itself, with further details to be announced by the Treasurer in the Budget next week. The commitment by the Government to the project is promising. After decades of procrastination by successive governments, it has obviously finally come to the realisation that Sydney is in need of such infrastructure and has a great deal of opportunity to grow and prosper. In fact, WSA is regarded as high priority by Infrastructure Australia, on the grounds that the existing Kingsford Smith Airport cannot service passenger growth to an anticipated 76 million ppa by 2030 (at present Sydney KSA has 45 million passengers, effectively at capacity, so there is a massive disconnect)

The statement from Australia’s Minister for Urban Infrastructure, Paul Fletcher stated,

“It is a vitally important project for Western Sydney, for Sydney, and the nation, which is why the Coalition Government ended decades of indecision by committing to the project in 2014. We are well positioned to move forward on terms that are consistent with the terms of the Notice of Intention. The airport will be a major catalyst for jobs and economic growth in Western Sydney, injecting more than AUD1.9 billion into the economy during the construction phase alone. It is expected to deliver 9,000 new jobs to Western Sydney by the early 2030s, and 60,000 in the long-term.”

The Blue Swan stands by its original statement though, small thinking will confine the airport to slow growth and inconvenience. For this project to really have the impact that it is destined to have it needs to avoid becoming a small regional airport that is poorly linked to the city and confined to being local activity. We need a thriving, busy second access point to Sydney which will drive tourism, reduce the cost of travel and assist airlines meet customer expectations.

CAPA-Centre for Aviation executive chairman Peter Harbison believes having a separate owner for Sydney’s second airport is a positive step forward. Mr Harbison stated,

“There is a once in a generation opportunity here to provide a genuine alternative and supplement to the near-full Sydney KSA. That requires a commitment to providing surface infrastructure that will actually allow people to get to and from the new airport. That doesn’t mean offering a less than optimal mishmash of road transport options and some local train links. In fact there is the opportunity for a silver bullet solution to this, build a fast rail link between Sydney and Badgerys Creek.”

To confine the planning to a modest and inadequate set of surface links will also confine the airport’s upside potential to the sort of mediocre political performances that prevented this airport from being built 25 years ago.

“To confine the planning to a modest and inadequate set of surface links will also confine the airport’s upside potential to the sort of mediocre political performances that prevented this airport from being built 25 years ago. It should not be limited to a convenient ‘western’ Sydney Airport plan. The new airport, if adequately linked, will transform Sydney for the next generation. We owe it to them to make some bold decisions now. There could be no better infrastructure investment by our Federal and State governments to reshape – in effect – Australia’s economy. But that is politically inconvenient, so we can only hope some leadership will emerge. Committing to building the airport is a good move. But it is only one part of the solution. The key to its success and to becoming a serious economic driver is to put in place a fast rail link.”

In a recent interview with the ABC, Mr Fletcher stated that a joint rail scoping study is being done by the New South Wales and Commonwealth governments that is looking at the question of what the right rail route to the airport is, when should it be built, how much will it cost and how should it be funded? The study is expected to be complete by the middle of this 2017. This is where the success of the airport will fall apart. We have little faith that a sufficient rail system would be put in place to support travellers from all around Sydney and NSW utilising the proposed airport and not just those in the area.

To read the interview visit the following link.

Interesting facts about the WSA:

  • Estimated cost of AUD5 billion by Infrastructure Australia
  • Construction to begin in 2018
  • Operational by 2026
  • Initial expectation of 5 million passengers a year
  • 1949 was the first discussion by Government to build an additional airport in Sydney
  • 9 billion into the economy during the construction phase alone
  • 9,000 new jobs to Western Sydney by the early 2030s, and 60,000 in the long-term