Badgerys makes debate debut – leaders dodge the question

Posted: August 11, 2013 in Transport
Tags: ,

The question of a second Sydney airport was put to Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott at the leaders’ debate earlier tonight, a mark of how important a seemingly local issue has become on the national political stage. Daily Telegraph reporter Simon Benson asked the leaders whether they would support an airport at Badgerys in the context of job creation, putting forward the figure of 50,000 new jobs that could be created if such an airport was built. Each leader dodged the question, with Mr Abbott choosing to talk about how building WestConnex could improve the capacity of the existing Kingsford-Smith airport at Mascot, while Mr Rudd referred the question to Deputy PM and Transport Minister Anthony Albanese before attacking Mr Abbott for not supporting public transport.

The important thing to take from these responses are two fold. First, each leader has now committed to making a final decision on a second airport in the next term of government. Second, both have done their best to dance around the issue of the Badgerys location, whereas in years past political leaders have been quick to immediately rule it out. This tends to confirm a widespread belief that politicians privately accept that Badgerys is the best location for a second airport, and that a second airport is needed, but that it remains a complex issue within a political minefield.

Current and proposed Sydney airports. Click to enlarge. (Source: Google Maps, modified by author)

Current and proposed Sydney airports. Click to enlarge. (Source: Google Maps, modified by author)

Ben Sandilands at Crikey has written that an unspoken truce now exists between politicians on the issue of Badgerys. Both know that whoever wins this election will need to start work on an airport, and that both parties will probably govern at some point during its construction. And if it will have to be built at some point anyway, it makes sense to finally put the long term interests of the national economy ahead of short term political interests.

  1. Dudley Horscroft says:

    The question is, will construction of Badgery’s Creek Airport actually benefit the National Economy?

    “whether they would support an airport at Badgerys in the context of job creation,” This is rather like the story of the two Irish workers, one digging a hole and the other, as soon as it was completed, filling it in again. When queried why, one said “Actually we are a three man team but Paddy is off sick, and he has to put the tree in the hole, With him away we can do it much faster and increase our productivity.”

    Badgery’s Creek is too far out – to make it effective it would require a high speed rail link to central Sydney. Add that to the cost of the Airport. When you have got something that would be workable, you will have something where the net benefits are negative, it will be a disaster for the National Economy. Note that the recent review/inquiry was largely run by the air enthusiasts – not really suitable persons to run a review of airport needs.

    Far better to develop KSA, and shift commuter aircraft to Bankstown.

  2. That sort of thinking completely ignores the fact that Badgerys Creek is for the benefit of the economy of Western Sydney. The Sydney CBD will continue to have an airport at Mascot. But with Western Sydney soon to overtake Eastern Sydney in population, and suffering from a jobs deficit of 200,000 (set to rise to 500,000 by 2050 if nothing is done about it), essential job creating infrastructure like an airport for Western Sydney is really necessary for the region.

    To not do so would also require additional transport infrastructure, things like WestConnex and a Second Harbour Rail Crossing, to be built earlier than would otherwise be the case. And it would then reach capacity earlier than would be the case, due to the unnecessary need to transport so many passengers and so much freight across long distances.

  3. RichardU says:

    Making these decisions in the height of an election campaign is a dangerous time to do anything. I think it is bad policy to see a second airport as a job creation activity. And not only because the promised 50,000 jobs will not happen in the term of the next parliament. Either it makes sense for other reasons (principally real, not imagined, under capacity at existing facilities) or it should not be built. A new airport will have to be paid for by many people who will not use it; that’s a big political ask.

    Even if many Sydney airport users start their journey in the Western Suburbs, they must still be a small percentage of the people who head east each day.

  4. Ray says:

    In response to Dudley Horscroft, I don’t think you have ever endured the frustrating experience of trying to arrive at the airport on time to catch your flight. I’m not a regular air traveler, but last year I was travelling overseas and my departure was on Sunday morning. I had to check-in 3 hours before departure and I allowed plenty of time to do so. However, I was travelling on Southern Cross Drive and General Holmes Drive to the International Terminal and the traffic was at a standstill trying to access the terminal. Sunday morning!!! I eventually arrived 2 hours before departure. It created so much anxiety thinking that I would miss my flight, that I vowed never to subject myself to this experience again. I have since learned that this is normal for Sunday morning.

    Although Badgerys Creek is a long way from the Sydney CBD (Wilton is even further away), it doesn’t need a high speed rail link. The South West Rail Link is only a short distance away and could easily be extended to provide an acceptable service the CBD. There is no alternative for another major airport in the Sydney region.

    The last thing Macquarie Bank, the owners of Sydney Airport, would think of is customer service. It’s at the bottom of their list of priorities. Profit at all costs is their mantra. You only have to look at the exorbitant parking fees to confirm that.

    Sydney Airport has consistently claimed that there are more than enough slots to accommodate flight arrivals/departures well into the future, but they conveniently ignore the fact that most international airlines want slots in the peak periods, such as early morning, when there is limited capacity.

    To suggest that a strategy of developing KSA further and shifting commuter aircraft to Bankstown is absurd and would only exacerbate air traffic congestion in the Sydney region.

    I agree with Bambul that the establishment of a second airport for Sydney at Badgerys Creek would not only provide a greatly enhanced capacity for air traffic in the Sydney Region, but would also create jobs in western Sydney, which let’s face it, is the only catalyst that is going to achieve this outcome.

  5. Thought says:

    There are SO many issues surrounding the decision whether to build a second airport or not.
    The arguments for building a second airport are quite obvious at the moment.

    Firstly, Sydney Airport is lacking some serious infrastructure. It is operating near peak and the only ways this can be alleviated in the short term is to either lift the cap on takeoffs/landings or do away with the curfew. Neither option is very likely, certainly not politically.
    As was mentioned, it’s the peak periods that are desired and the airport is near full.
    The Airport can decide to shaft regional airlines to make more room for larger domestic and international. That probably won’t happen.

    Secondly, Bankstown is not adequate nor is there any support for it as a ‘second’ airport. There is also no proper public transport or even proper road links to and from.

    A second Sydney airport at Badgery’s Creek may benefit from no curfew

  6. moonetau says:

    Ray, was getting the train to KSA not an option, notwithstanding the station access fee?
    RichardU, yes the vast majority of KSA users have CBD or north and east of CBD as their origin/destination. If BC is built most of the passengers and most of the freight will have to travel further than they do/it does today.

  7. Ray says:

    No moonetau it was not an option. Travelling with luggage by train from the north to Central and then to the airport would have taken much longer. Travelling by car, or taxi, normally takes 45 mins to the airport by freeway all the way and in my naivety I thought that we should be able get there within at least an hour on Sunday morning. The station access fees would not be an issue for me. You miss the whole point that Badgerys Creek would cater for Western Sydney, not the North, East and South, which would still predominantly use KSA.

  8. moonetau says:

    Ray a study conducted by Sydney Airports Corporation showed that the majority of people who fly are the rich, even today. And the relatively rich live in the places I noted, and also the south east.
    See also

    Click to access sac_part_three_demand_for_aviation.pdf

    pages 85f.

  9. Ray says:

    What do you call rich? I think that’s an absurd remark. There are plenty of people, even in the North and East who are not “rich”, and I’m certainly not one of them. There are parts of Western Sydney which are increasingly becoming more middle class and why should they be denied more convenient access to an airport? Anything Sydney Airports Corporation says, I take with a grain of salt, because they have a vested interest in keeping out any competition to their monopoly position.

  10. moonetau says:

    I’m just going by the report. see Figure 46 “Passenger type at Sydney region airports by household income, 2004 to 2009” and see where the dots are in Figure 45, in the pdf I referenced.
    No offence intended to anyone.

  11. It’s also the case that Western Sydney’s population and wealth is growing faster than Eastern Sydney’s. A recent report showed that the proportion of air passengers coming from Sydney’s West has grown strongly in recent years (see link below).

    The only way to justify not building an airport is to remain stuck looking into the past. If you look into the future, it’s clear that it is inevitable. Even Sydney Airport Corporation says a second airport will be needed, and that it should be built at Badgerys Creek.

  12. MK says:

    I disagree. Building an airport is probably the worst idea for WS – they need other infrastructure and amentities which is severely lacking compared to the heart of the city.

    They will be subjected to a 24.7 airport with more pollution, noise than even Kingsford Smith yet they travel on planes the least out of everyone in Sydney. People that buy out here are usually young families and the people that can’t afford the Sydney amentities. They should at least get the benefits by being away from the city – i.e less noise, pollution and health problems. They will get neither with this airport.

  13. @ MK –

    Do you have any facts to support that argument? Here are the facts to support the case for Badgerys:

    Noise – This will have a very minimal impact as the area surrounding Badgerys has been reserved for industrial use and parklands. By the time planes from Badgerys are flying over residential areas it will be the equivalent of a plane from Kingsford-Smith flying over Macquarie Park. Some 328 homes will probably be compulsorily acquired due to high noise levels (the number of homes near Kingsford-Smith with that level of noise is 29,457). In addition, planes are getting quieter and quieter: an A380 is half as loud as a 747, while an A320 is only a quarter as loud as a 747.

    Pollution – Planes dump fuel over the ocean when needed before landing, not over land. This will not be an issue.

    24/7 operation – Outside of peak times planes can take off and land towards the South-West of the airport. This flight path has virtually no development underneath it, even less than the North-East flight path that is already almost devoid of residential areas already, as mentioned earlier. So this isn’t a problem.

    Demand – About 30% of Kingsford-Smith’s flights have an origin or destination in Western Sydney, and this proportion is growing. I don’t consider one in three trips to be insignificant. The two thirds majority can continue to use Kingsford-Smith (or use Badgerys during Kingsford-Smith’s curfew hours), while the sizeable minority can choose to shift over to the closer Badgerys Creek airport.

    Infrastructure – An airport is the single biggest piece of infrastructure you can build. Particularly for the part of Sydney where all the warehouses and factories tend to be located these days, the lack of any nearby port (air or sea) is a huge disadvantage.

    Benefits of living away from the city – Western Sydney is a huge area. Most of it’s residents won’t notice an airport at all (Liverpool is 20km from Badgerys Creek, Parramatta is 35km from Badgerys Creek). And those areas closest to the airport are specifically zoned industrial or parklands anyway.

    See pages 5-6 in the link below to see maps of the flight paths and land use, plus a comparison to Kingsford-Smith Airport.

    Click to access A%20Sydney%20West%20Airport%20-%20Bob%20Meyer%20presentation.pdf

  14. Simon says:

    Is there a source for the 30% of KSA having an origin or destination in Western Sydney? What is Western Sydney? If I get off a plane at KSA and head to Parramatta am I included? I’d expect it will be more convenient to get to Parra by PT from KSA than from BC.

  15. @Simon –

    I may have gotten the number mixed up in my memory on the 30%. Perhaps the 30% was a forecast. I did find a source which gives 18% with some back of the envelope calculations (14m trips for NW and SW Sydney vs 76m for Sydney in total) on page 86.

    Click to access sac_part_three_demand_for_aviation.pdf

    I’d imagine that Parramatta would be counted as Western Sydney. I’d also say that it would be faster by public transport from Kingsford-Smith, but only if public transport is as it is right now with Badgerys Creek as farmland. With an airport you would almost certainly see either a bus from Badgerys to Parramatta (which takes 30 minutes express and is mostly freeway so wouldn’t take much longer if you add a few stops) or an extension of the SWRL/Cumberland Line (which I’m guessing would take as long as Parramatta-Campbelltown: 48 minutes). A train from Domestic to Central (11 minutes) and then to Parramatta (25-33 minutes) involves a transfer at Central most likely with bulky luggage, is more likely to be delayed as it passes through the most congested part of the network/city, and is more expensive due to the access fee, all without a significant saving in travel time or possibly even a longer total travel time.

  16. Simon says:

    Fair enough, although I think you’re being a little optimistic about the ground transport connections from BC. Just as easily it could be a bus to Blacktown then general PT from there. Or Liverpool or Glenfield or a combination. Perhaps a fast(ish) bus to Sydney Airport for connections?

  17. @Simon –

    Perhaps. Though it takes 29 mins to Parramatta, 26 mins to Blacktown, or 23 mins to Liverpool, not a huge difference. If the bus to Badgery’s was an extended local bus from Blacktown or Liverpool then I could see that being chosen. But if it’s a new route and there was only one, then I would assume it would be to/from Parramatta. Either way, it’s all speculating about something 5-10 years into the future at the very least, so we won’t know who is right until long after we have both forgotten this back and forth.

  18. Ray says:

    Reading between the lines, the government has hinted that any announcement about an airport at Badgerys Creek will include transport infrastructure upgrades to support it. So, let’s just wait and see how it pans out.

  19. Ray says:

    With the imminent announcement that Badgerys Creek will almost certainly be confirmed as the site for Sydney’s second airport, now that Barry O’Farrell has climbed aboard, it would be interesting to speculate on how a mooted orbital rail link, connecting the South West Rail Link to the North West Rail Link via the airport, might be implemented.

    With the respective extensions being two incompatible rail systems (heavy rail and rapid transit), there will have to be an interchange point somewhere along the route. For my part, I would suggest that the airport itself would be the most logical interchange location. Shame it can’t be an integrated link, but as things stand, that just won’t be possible. It’s a further demonstration of the lack of foresight in the future planning for Sydney’s rail system, particularly in the low density outer suburbs, which are not exactly prime candidates for rapid transit/metro operation. Any other thoughts?

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