Will We Ever See A Second Airport In Sydney?

The debate over whether Sydney needs a second airport has bubbled along since the 1980s, when land was earmarked at Badgerys Creek as a potential second site. Current NSW premier Barry O'Farrell reaffirmed on the weekend that he is opposed to an airport at that location, but the question of how long Australia's biggest city can operate with just one centrally-located airport remains open.

Picture by Amanda Slater

O'Farrell's argument is that introducing a second airport at Badgerys Creek would create an unacceptable airport noise problem for millions of western Sydney residents. The sprawling expansion of the city means that what was once a relatively under-populated area is now rather more occupied.

At the same time, increasing passenger numbers mean that Sydney Airport is eventually going to reach capacity. A recent government report suggests that not building a second airport will have a negative effect on the economy of $6 billion by 2035.

One way to solve that would be to allow more aircraft passenger movements, but that has noise implications in itself. And it's not just a question of letting planes land: an effective airport needs to be accessible, and Sydney's near-central location makes it vulnerable to traffic jams. In peak hour, taxi queues at the airport are already a cause of frequent complaint for travellers.

Right now, Melbourne is the only Australian city which has two major airports used by domestic travellers. With that said, Avalon isn't exactly a vibrant concern: it's used by just two airlines (Jetstar and Sharp) and has flights to only three destinations (Sydney, Brisbane and Portland).

(You could also make the case that the Gold Coast airport serves something of the same function for Queensland. While it's located a good two hours away from Brisbane airport, that kind of distance isn't uncommon with European airports, especially older military airfields repurposed for use by low-cost airlines. If the existing Brisbane-Gold Coast train line got connected to the Gold Coast terminal — it already begins from Brisbane Airport — it would be a much more viable alternative landing point.)

Perhaps we need to think about these problems from different angles. For instance, Sydney does have a good train service to the existing airport, but many Sydney residents don't use it because there's a hefty surcharge due to it having been constructed with private funds. Right now, if there's more than one of you going to the airport, it usually works out cheaper to get a taxi. If the surcharge was dropped and airport trains cost regular rates, it would be a lot more appealing to take the train. That's not going to solve every issue related to airport growth, but it's a measure that still might be worth considering while we squabble over whether a second airport is needed.

I don't imagine we're ever going to see Sydney emulating London, which has five major airports (Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, Luton and London City). But if the current saga teaches us anything, it's that failing to recognise the need for future expansion can make problems much more difficult to solve in the future. If nothing else, maybe we can remember that when it comes to broadband.

Lifehacker Australia editor Angus Kidman is slightly embarrassed to realise that he still hasn't flown into Avalon airport. His Road Worrier column, looking at technology and organising tips for travellers, appears each week on Lifehacker.


    Badgerys Creek - JFBI

      Badgery's Creek JFBI: try it and watch Australia's biggest class action lawsuit happen.

      The commentators who draw compare the situation to the unsuccessful (but still very expensive) lawsuits which accompanied the building of Melbourne airport (eg. Ben Sandilands) forget that the development of an airport at Badgery's Creek has been declared permanently off the agenda by a number of government ministers over the years, both at the state and federal level. People can validly claim their investment was contingent on these statements, and the airport therefore becomes a significant tort claim due to massively decreased housing values.

      I do not believe a similar case could be made for the reasonably expected extension of Sydney's current airport. I don't recall any politician ever ruling out the expansion of Sydney airport, either.

      Of course, I don't expect the O'Farrell government to proceed with BC anyway. They have had the shortest honeymoon period in history, and became scandal plagued remarkably quickly. Putting an airport in Western Sydney is going to be seen for what it is: Eastern and Northern Sydney dumping something it doesn't want in the West. And that won't be appreciated in most of their recently gained seats.

        Um have you looked at the house prices in Badgery's Creek. They couldn't be worth any less. At least an airport will add something substantial to BC.

        FYI there is no space in Eastern and Northern Sydney for an Airport. Western Sydney is the only option.

          Of course there is space in Eastern Sydney: right next to the existing airport, extending parallel runways into the port areas.

          I agree there is no space in Northern Sydney for an airport, but you miss the point, in that Western Sydney is substantially ignored by both the current and former governments. Typically, the only developments you see are those the rest of Sydney wants to play NIMBY games with.

    It's the one thing that pisses me off about Politicians. They get together to commission a 3,000 page report at great expense into where the new airport should be looking at all of the issues - noise, economic benefits, environmental, transport etc etc then as soon as it comes out and states the obvious, that it should be built at Badgerys Creek on land the government already owns, they immediately ignore the recommendations for political gain.

    O'Farrell seems to be suspending reality when talking about an airport in Canberra. There isn't one city anywhere in the world that such a situation exists. BTW I'm all in favour of a fast train network from Melbourne to Brisbane via Canberra, just wish they'd build it.

    This is a city. Cities need airports. People who live in cities need to put up with noise. Noise from cars, trucks, neighbours and planes. If you don't like noise go move to the country.

    Sydney Airport has 100% of its slots in peak times full, the time to make a decision is now. The airlines will simply bypass Sydney and send their aircraft to Melbourne or Brisbane. Maybe I should go live there?


        Holy shit, i dont think i could +1 that hard enough. GET THE HELL OUT OF MY BRAIN

      Agree totally.

      The fast train option is a must and I don't know why we are sitting on our backside doing nothing about it.

      If i could catch a train from Melbourne to Sydney in three to four hours, i would do it EVERYTIME. By time you get to the airport, go through security and actually fly, a sydney to melbourne trip takes that long anyway.

      If you want to test a fast train service out.... build the bastard between Sydney and Canberra. This trip would take no longer than an hour on a fast train. As a public servant, i would hate to know how much money is spent every year flying people between sydney and canberra. I know a lot of people do it on a regular basis and it would be a total waste.

      Maybe Lifehacker wants to contact the Treasury Department and see if they could get a costing on how much is spent by the public service on that route. It would be enlightening.

        I would like to see this, I would find it quite funny. Then what should we do with that info? write a feasibility report to the Federal Government?

      you Sir deserve a +1.

    Why does there have to be a second airport in Sydney? Why cannot the states upgrade or expand their airports and the load of incoming be shared via three or four airports instead of just one? This would save costs and also help with air traffic as well (I think it will).

      Upgrading the other states airports is the better solution, but its one the NSW will never stand for.

      The key risk in allowing planes to land in other cities/states other than sydney is that those visitors may potentially not even visit sydney at all. While business travel is what the airlines focus on, the states focus on tourism (specifically international tourism). It brings a source of funds into the state rather than recycling what is already there.

      Therefore, if Sydney runs out of air capacity, there is a potential that they will miss out on this spending in future.

      Because the airlines what to fly into Sydney, not Melbourne or Brisbane. Sydney does twice the traffic of the next airport (melbourne). If it was 24hrs it would do triple the Traffic. A second Airport is need because Sydney's flight slots are full and more airline want to continue flying in.

    I totally agree about the train/surcharge. I would much rather jump on a train instead of waiting for a taxi, but when there's more than one person it works out as more expensive, which just seems crazy.

    Here is what I would do if I was PM.

    Put it at Richmond with a Cat 3 ILS system like Melboune, add another runway, it can share the airport with the existing Military base just like Townsville or Newcastle, planes can land in fog, existing railway line can be upgraded quite cheaply, airspace is already there, just needs to be changed to class C airspace, bingo, you have a second Sydney airport, quick and cheap.


    An alternative use the Holsworthy army base, again, runway already exists, add another, extend railway line into the base, can still be shared with the army, airspace is already designated military, change to Class C, bang, there you have it another option, cheap.

    Re-open Scholfields as a General Aviation airport, complete with an airpark (I would be first to buy a house there with hanger attached for my RV 7A). And upgrade The Oaks with a sealed runway, and an airpark (I would buy here also).

    General Aviation in Sydney is very much limited to Bankstown and Camden, although there is The Oaks (Grass Strip) and Wedderburn, which are very much underused for various reasons, a GA airport in the north would be great.

      Melbourne doesn't have Cat III ILS and never will because the weather will never be as bad as what you will find in Europe. Richmond already operates with Class C procedures, in fact all most RAAF base use them.

    Not in my back yard.

    (unless they give me lots of money first)

      Everyone says that, but it has to be in someone back yard.

      Whats wrong with a GA Airport in your backyard???

      GA Aircraft are no not make much more noise then traffic does?

    Why not turn Canberra into a major airport and install a fast train service? Or the same for Newcastle and improve current train services?

    Someone should actually make a decision and do it, you know, be an actual leader. Otherwise just leave Sydney alone to rot into the over populated, under developed, yet amazing f***k up of a city that it is

    Gold Coast Airport to Brisbane Airport by road - 109Km
    Sunshine Coast Airport to Brisbane Airport by road - 110Km

    So effectively you have three major airports servicing South East Queensland. While a third airport option is still being discussed for Melbourne (possibly near Western Port Bay).

    Anyone who has experienced high speed rail travel will realise that it is superior to air travel in many ways, especially going CBD to CBD. Some of the air routes have been reduced by 80% or closed down altogether. In effect it would see less domestic air travel at Sydney Airport but would open it up for more international flights. Rail is not affected by bad weather like air travel and can handle more passengers in each direction. The price of building a new airport, plus all the freeways and rail connections required, the final price is comparable to the rail option, plus could open up other benefits, such as allowing daily commuting from Sydney to the Illawarra, Southern Highlands and Canberra with travel being approximately 1 hour to the ACT.

    Angus, don't be embarrassed that you've never flown into Avalon. I've flown Tiger just to avoid it. :S

    This problems points out one of the major issue with the political landscape in Australia, the political vision is always short term (4 years) to ensure that power can be maintained. Our politicians dont look at the big picture or deal with the tough decissions as its to easy for govenrment to be changed by the vocal minority. In short, democracy in Australia doesnt work.

      SP - are you saying the NBN and the Sydney Desal plant are both short term visions?

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