The lobbying over a second airport for Sydney is lurching into higher gear but there is little chance of the Richmond Air Force base becoming anything more than a sideshow.
Instead the Board of Airline Representatives and Jetstar are leading the push for maximising the efficiency of Sydney Airport before public or private money is poured into an all new airport in the Sydney basin.
A Jetstar spokesman this morning said, “We have very strong ambitions for more growth from the existing airport.”
“Jetstar is always interested in second city airports as we proved at Avalon in Melbourne, but Sydney works very well for us at this stage.”
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But the real crunch for the Rudd Government is that all of the airlines speak as one when arguing for lifting the legislated cap of 80 flights per hour to 120 movements, something that is possible with the best air traffic technology yet totally and permanently impractical in politics.
Which means that sooner rather than later, the airlines will want a second airport solution which is competitive with the main airport in terms of access for as large a part of the population as possible, which points to Badgerys Creek and an M7 motorway connection, but which the government has ruled out.
Lurking in the background are studies done by both Virgin Blue and Jetstar as to the potential of Richmond. These plans see Richmond as being useful for a handful of flights, but useless in terms of easing a capacity crunch at the main airport.
Richmond has terrible road access, a pathetic rail service, and a runway so short that heavy US military transport which often land there have to refuel at nearby airports, sometimes even Sydney airport, to continue on their missions between little discussed strategically important locations in this part of the world.
A Tiger Airways spokesman said it hadn’t contemplated Richmond but had an open mind on “real alternatives to major airports in all markets.” He said Tiger would be a very interested participant in a serious discussion about a major new airport for Sydney, which it currently bypasses to avoid the costs of using the existing facilities.