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Badgerys Creek airport firms up as lame duck exposed

November 19, 2013 Airport, Headline News 1 Comment Email Email

egtmedia59A suggested alternative site for Sydney’s second airport (other than frontrunner  Badgerys Creek) has been dealt a potentially fatal blow, with a federal government-commissioned report revealing extensive environmental problems and prohibitive costs at the Wilton site, about 80 kilometres south-west of Sydney’s CBD.

A report by consultants WorleyParsons, obtained by Sydney’s Sun-Herald newspaper and used as the basis of an article at the weekend, shows that all potential airport sites in the Wilton area  sit on top of valuable coal leases. Wilton has been exposed as a lame duck – no great surprise, as the sudden focus on Wilton a year or so ago was widely regarded as a delaying tactic to avoid committing to an airport site before the federal election.Sidebar-Article-Banner-250

In May this year, the federal government released technical scoping studies into the suitability of Wilton, in addition to the potential use of RAAF Richmond for limited commercial operations. The scoping studies (carried out by WorleyParsons for site identification and suitability, Booz and Company for alternative airport site modelling, Ernst & Young for the economic and social analysis and PricewaterhouseCoopers to examine the viability factors for airline and investor perspectives) came to similar conclusions, for various reasons.

That report concluded: “Badgerys Creek has potentially stronger economic benefits than the Wilton site. That is for two reasons. Firstly, the modelling assumes it could commence operations around five years earlier than the site at Wilton (a reasonable

assumption given the relative complexity of the two sites). Secondly, the Badgerys Creek site is nearer to its key market – the reason for its relative attractiveness to the aviation industry.”

As for Richmond, the report stated flatly: “RAAF Base Richmond cannot provide sufficient capacity for Sydney’s long-term aviation needs.” Prime Minister Tony Abbott has since ruled out Richmond as an interim option.

The latest report says coal leases would make it more difficult to develop an airport at Wilton because of potential risks to safety from subsidence, or shifting ground.

Nobody wants subsidence under a runway.

The report also says it could be expensive for a government to cancel the mining leases and develop an airport instead. Ensuring that the discharge and runoff from an airport site did not contaminate Sydney’s water supply would also be very pricey, the report adds.

The Wilton proposal has been widely criticised because of its proximity to Sydney’s drinking water.

Four mining areas cover the land that could be used for an airport at Wilton, the report now discloses. Why it has taken such a long time, and an extensive report, to reveal something that should have been public knowledge, is a mystery.

The mine that would have the biggest impact on potential airport sites around Wilton is owned by Gujarat, the report states. The risk of subsidence is such that it would not be possible to develop an airport for 50 years after mining had ended.

That’s far too long for Sydney to wait – although it has waited that long already.

Expect nothing fast. New studies will be commissioned, new reports will be drawn up. So it has been for decade after decade. Governments have been grappling with the issue since the 1940s and serious planning for a second airport for Sydney began in the 1970s.

If dithering could be converted into tarmac, Sydney would have the biggest second airport in the world.

Written by : Peter Needham

Currently there is "1 comment" on this Article:

  1. Mark Cameron says:

    There is no valid reason why Richmond RAAF base could not be used as an interim / long term solution. Aircraft up to medium size can operate from there today !!! There is also a railway line to Richmond.
    Why is an obvious interim solution being ignored ?

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