TALKED about since the 1940s and finally given the go-ahead by the Australian government in early May, Sydney’s on-again-off-again second airport project promises to bring more visitors to the city and more jobs to an area in need of an economic helping hand.
But can it live up to expectations?
Increased competition could bring prices down for domestic commuters, especially on the Sydney to Melbourne stretch which is the fifth busiest air route in the world. Ditto international flights which are notoriously expensive in Australia as distances, even from the rest of Asia, are vast.
Supporters of the project are hoping the airport at Badgery’s Creek will bring jobs to the area. Living there at the moment can entail hours commuting into the city.
Australia’s Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is optimistic about the benefits as he told The Financial Times: “The airport will be a major catalyst for jobs and economic growth in western Sydney, injecting more than AUD1.9 billion (US$1.4 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.”
There are worries from locals about noise pollution though as the project is almost certain to go ahead as a no curfew site, unlike the existing airport where all services stop at 11pm. There are fears, also, that the airport will be so close to the Blue Mountains and may even affect their hard-won world heritage listing.
Despite the government’s pledge to inject over AUD5 billion (US$3.7 billion) over ten years, there is concern from business and tourism the recent federal budget did not include anticipated funds for vital infrastructure for the airport.
The New South Wales Business Chamber’s Damian Kelly told ABC News, “We’ve long argued and long articulated the need for a comprehensive transport support plan for the airport. We certainly endorse the plan for a rail link. It is disappointing the government didn’t announce that as part of the budget.”
Road links to Badgery Creek are under construction. However, the 60km journey into the city center could be significant for visitors without adequate public transport, entailing an eye-watering taxi fare.
Alarm bells also rang over the decision by the operators of Sydney’s existing Kingsford Smith airport not to take up the opportunity to build and operate the second proposed site, citing worries over “considerable risks”. And Melbourne’s second airport at Avalon has been a flop.
Worries aside though, it seems the project – first proposed in 1946 – is at last going ahead and could mean a welcome boost and a vital contingency for Sydney’s visitor numbers in the years to come.