Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Flying into Trouble

Sydney's second airport will surely never be built.

For over 60 years governments have been talking on and off about building it, but it seems clearer now than ever before that it is just never going to happen.

Too many governments have made plans, identified sites, spent millions on studies and surveys, and then shelved the plans as soon as it was politically convenient to do so.

Barry O'Farrell has shown himself to be no exception.

Rather than float a site, and then "respond to community feedback" by shelving it, he has hopped straight on the high-speed rail line bandwagon.  

This also seems like a nice idea that will almost certainly never be realised.  The investment required would be enormous, and would require not only cooperation but also funding from a diverse number of government bodies.

That's before we even begin the discussion about where it will cut through Sydney and where it will tip out its passengers.  There's certainly no space at the CBD stations, and what good would it be to abandon the passages at an outer suburbs station like Campbelltown or Penrith?

It seems like Sydney has missed the boat on this one entirely (if you'll forgive the pun) - with Western Sydney seats being so crucial to any state election, no government is going to risk building an airport out west - that is, unless 16 years in opposition sounds like a good deal.

So, the result?  Sydney airport will get more crowded.  The government will be forced to choose between relaxing the curfew or accepting that the number of passengers moving through the airport will have to be capped.

The restrictions will be relaxed, but probably not before an "independent, non-partisan committee" decrees that to be the solution, to minimise the political fall-out.

If only the government had had the foresight and courage to make the call all those years ago, so we could have a functional and eminently useful airport like Melbourne have in Avalon.

This "high-speed rail" - well, i'll believe it when someone explains to me where it will go and how it will be paid for.  Not holding my breath on that one.


  1. Thanks for that prophecy of gloom, captain cynical... your position appears to be 'its too big, complicated and requires too much long term planning, therefore assume it'll never happen.'

    Perhaps I'm naive, but i believe a competent government should not only capable of delivering on big projects, but is entitled to.

  2. High Speed Rail - paid for by Stamp Duty as people move into and develop (either low density or otherwise) other urban centres connected to Sydney but not in Sydney, when they can commute to the CBD within 1 hr.
    The logical option in the medium term is to replace intercity services to some parts which already have developed passengers with better high speed (e.g. South-West to Canberra, North to Newcastle).

    Also if you look at Japan they run high-speed and also run more frequently stopping trains on the same line... which makes the investments more viable.

    Another thing is if High Speed was available for example from Campbelltown/Liverpool/Springwood/Penrith/Parramatta/Hornsby-City, it would get used and paid for by a portion of regular commuters who live outside the 30 minute commute zone.

  3. So what's the problem if there's no SSA - particularly one in western Sydney?

    There is no doubt that such an airport particularly at BC would bring an intolerable addition air pollution load to western Sydney which is already burdened by poor air quality.

    This is before we get to the issues of noise pollution, cost effectiveness etc etc.

    My experience of more than 20 years being involved in this issue is that only people keen on this airport are those who live in leafy eastern and northern suburbs far away from the areas that would be affected by the flights they fondly imagine will be still affordable by the time the airport is functional.