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On-again off-again Sydney second airport is on again

April 16, 2014 Airport, Headline News No Comments Email Email

egtmedia59Sydney’s seemingly endless quest for a second airport has once again settled on Badgerys Creek in the city’s west, long since established as the most suitable site but stymied for well over 50 years for political reasons.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott said yesterday that planning and design work would begin immediately to build Sydney’s second airport at Badgerys Creek. He expects construction to start in 2016. But nothing is likely to land or take off there till the mid-2020s.

Such statements, and similar, have been made before – many times as the decades have rolled by. Abbott can expect strong opposition. Already, the former Liberal member for the key Western Sydney seat of Lindsay, Jackie Kelly, has written on Facebook from London (where she is holidaying) that Abbott has signed a political “death warrant” by deciding on Badgerys and will come to “regret this epitaph”.

Abbott said yesterday the airport would cost about AUD 2.5 billion but he expected the great majority of the spending to come from the private sector. He would not commit to any curfew at the airport (as applies to Sydney Airport at Mascot). Instead, he played down concerns about noise, saying modern jets were much quieter than their predecessors.

Qantas welcomed the decision. The airline’s chief executive Alan Joyce said the second airport was a vital piece of economic infrastructure for Australia – and Badgerys Creek was clearly the right site.

“Qantas has long supported the building of a second airport at Badgerys Creek, as have a number of detailed studies. After decades of debate, we applaud today’s announcement by the Prime Minister,” Joyce said.

“The role of second airports has been well-established in several of the world’s major capitals. Sydney is the key gateway for air traffic in-and-out of Australia and the benefits of having two major airports will be felt nationwide.”

A comprehensive Federal-NSW study released in 2012 confirmed that a second airport would be needed by 2030 – and effectively ruled out any location other than Badgerys Creek.

Joyce said the Qantas Group would continue to work closely with Sydney Airport to maximise the use of “this key asset”, including through the rollout of its recently approved Master Plan 2033.

Abbott conceded that the first flight would not realistically take off from Badgerys until “the mid-2020s” but it was time to make necessary planning and critical road upgrades.

“Without a new airport, we run the risk of the existing Kingsford-Smith Airport reaching capacity,” Abbott said.

“Sydney’s airport is the gateway to Australia’s largest city and accounts for 40 per cent of international arrivals and 50 per cent of international airfreight each year. If no action is taken on a second airport, Australia would lose out on 80,000 additional jobs and AUD 34 billion in economic activity by 2060.”

A rail link is also considered vital if the airport is to succeed.

Here’s a quote on Badgery’s Creek from history’s vaults, 28 years ago, by federal aviation minister Peter Morris in 1986:

“The search for Sydney’s second airport site has concluded with the selection of Badgerys Creek… Because of the thoroughness of this work and the fact that 40 years of indecision by previous governments has been brought to an end, I am confident of a broad measure of support for our decision.”

The support wavered. In the meantime, the “40 years of indecision by previous governments” Morris referred to has turned into 68 years of government indecision.

Hopefully bi-partisan support for Badgerys Creek will now hold – but you would be brave to put any money on it.

Written by Peter Needham

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