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Jul 13, 2009

Sydney airport at Richmond? So funny it might not be serious

The Board of Airline Representatives of Australia has to be kidding if it really, truly, wants the Federal Government to build a second Sydney airport at the RAAF base at Richmond.

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The Board of Airline Representatives of Australia has to be kidding if it really, truly, wants the Federal Government to build a second Sydney airport at the RAAF base at Richmond.

Could it really be trying to focus the government’s mind on the necessity of building it at Badgery’s Creek instead, by forcing it to review the failings of the Richmond site?

BARA has recommended Richmond after expressing the well known reasons why a second Sydney airport far, far away from Sydney will in fact not be a Sydney Airport, but an airport in whoop whoop that no-one flying to or from Sydney would use.

The issues with Richmond, which BARA would understand better than anyone, is that it will make no discernible difference to congestion at Sydney’s main airport.

There is barely 2000 metres of usable runway. It is the Hotel California of airports, anything can land there, but not very much can check out with a full payload, and especially on a hot day.

If the idea is that heavy international flights are never going to use Richmond, but enough shorter range domestic flights would, and thus create spare slots at Sydney for more big jets, there are also a few issues.

Richmond is payload limited under some circumstances for domestic flights using, say, 737s, and so hard to get to from most of Sydney as to be useless in terms of supporting frequent services to Melbourne, Brisbane or the Gold Coast.

Talk about upgrading the train line is silly. This is Sydney, the world capital for screwed up train lines.

No air traveller with a measurable IQ would contemplate getting a train from the city via the western and Richmond lines to such an airport, especially after trying to use the existing Sydney Airport-City line at peak hour towing a suitcase or children.

Sydney can’t even run one of the smallest CBD underground lines on the planet successfully. It butchered the airport railway and recently opened a joke underground link from Chatswood to Epping that only made sense as part of a Chatswood to Parramatta line.

It is true that the runway at Richmond can be extended, at huge cost, and by bulldozing quaint historic sites and maybe most of Windsor. Which will look terrific come election time all over whatever media is left in business by then.

But to get a proper, fly anything anytime 4000 metre north-south runway in place at Richmond it is actually necessary to flatten thousands of homes and vector jets right over the precious electorates that are probably the reason why the government ruled out Badgery’s Creek.

Which brings us to Badgery’s Creek. Building an economically sensible airport there is made so easy by close proximity to the M7 orbital motorway.

The integration of the M7 into the M5, M4 and M2 has already been accomplished.

Badgery’s Creek is now set up to be more conveniently reached from substantial parts of the metropolitan basin than the main airport, and at very small road building costs in the form of one or two spur roads to the M7 and M4.

The ultimate irony would be for the government to decide to designate Richmond the second Sydney Airport and promise a massive motorway project to link the M5 and M7 junction to Richmond via a corridor through the Penrith St Marys area.

This could then allow people to drive right along the three kilometres of flat terrain included in the Badgery’s Creek site before going another 30 kilometres to get to Richmond, an airport that would always be too far for most travellers to be considered worthwhile.

It is such a stupid idea it is probably “the plan.”

Ben Sandilands — Editor of Plane Talking

Ben Sandilands

Editor of Plane Talking

Ben Sandilands has reported and analysed the mechanical mobility of humanity since late 1960 - the end of the age of great scheduled ocean liners and coastal steamers and the start of the jet age. He’s worked in newspapers, radio and TV in a wide range of roles as a journalist at home and abroad for 56 years, the last 18 freelance.

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10 thoughts on “Sydney airport at Richmond? So funny it might not be serious

  1. Toby Fiander

    Ben Sandilands needs to look at a map before going off half-cocked. It is possible to have a 4000m runway by angling the main runway across the University land. It would be possible to bridge one of the roads – it is done at KSA – or close the road from Windsor to Richmond. Filling could be sourced from the roadworks required to link the area to the M2/M7. Take offs and landings over The Terrace would be no worse than many other international airport approaches.

    The railway line has already been duplicated in parts and relatively recently electrified. Dismissing the Sydney train experience by referring to the Chatswood-Parramatta project makes as much sense as saying, “It will never fly, Orville.”

    The usual reasons given for not having a commercial airport at Richmond are flooding and fog. Flooding is relatively simply fixable by more culverts under a raised airstrip, by angling any filling and by compensatory works. The volume of filling would not be significant when considered against the studies of flood storage in the early 1970s for the Council. There is a roadway already largely in place for flood escape in any case – it just on the other side of the hill in Windsor.

    Fog is no more an issue at Richmond than at Badgery’s Creek or almost anywhere else in the Sydney Basin.

    Noise is not likely to be an issue as the flight path would be over sparsely inhabited country in both directions for kilometres.

    I am not expert on the meshing on the flight paths with KSA or Bankstown, but from first principles, one would think there might be limited issues.

    Anyway, the article is so far off the pace that Ben Sandlilands really ought to print a retraction. It is poorly researched and not up the Crikey standard.

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