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.

Ben Sandilands — Editor of Plane Talking

Ben Sandilands

Editor of Plane Talking

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."

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

  1. Edward James

    I have not bothered to read the whole story Badegerys Creek fog and no real interest from long term players. Ho hum. Even i can recall when there was a push for freight to be in and out by air up near Parkes inland NSW but certainly way away from Sydney. Primary producers were keen and willing to fund an airport to have to have access to the world, well away from sydney. Talk of Badegerys Creek and other areas close to Sydney acknowledges a naive acceptance that there will be no real growth in our population or any sensible use of our land mass. While we keep building on productive farm land and potential dam sites we remain in trouble. Drunk and distracted by the latest rock fall here in my community on the Woy Woy Peninsula I have a better grasp of what is needed to bring us forward togeather, than most of our elected reps who are blinkered by party politics. God help us all! Edward James Umina

  2. 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.

  3. Joan Halford

    The idea of the second airport going to Newcastle might be whooping hilarious to some. It’s not whoop whoop (sic) though, just the second largest city in NSW.

  4. Tom McLoughlin

    Damn, have to retype.

    Just to say – yes foggy out t/here, Hawkesbury river between RAAF base and Windsor and alot of space between.

    Windsor Rd is dual carriage way highly engineered to serve much higher capacity – only some land developers at Pitt Town 20 km north west of there.

    And finally Faulkner and Albanese of Defence and Infrastructure respectively are both essentially inner westie Sydney Left Faction long standing whingers about KSA, as they should be.

    I wonder.

  5. bakerboy

    Toby Fiander – are you connected to an airport construction company? You should do your homework. Ben is generally correct, Richmond is not the place for a major commercial airport. Even the RAAF are leaving there to set up super-bases at Amberley and Williamtown. The main difference between Richmond and Badgerys Creek is that Richmond is in close proximity to the Blue Mountains which means rock filled clouds in bad weather. 20 years ago when I was in the RAAF, the idea of using Richmond for commercial flights was canvassed and rejected for the same reasons that Ben points out. Alex

  6. Toby Fiander

    Bakerboy you are once again assuming that the runway would be as it presently is. There is no reason why it cannot be at some other angle so that it is not necessary to fly immediately over the Blue Mountains.

    Ben Sandilands still has it wrong whatever blinkered process the military went through to assess the worth of the Richmond site 20years ago. Also, at that time access to the University land was probably considered difficult or perhaps impossible. Windsor Road, was also probably held to be sacrosanct. Both these assumptions are now easily challenged.

    Not only have I done my homework, I had discussions some years ago with the then Dept of Planning when the opportunity arose. I do not work for anyone with a vested interest in the site or the industry – in fact, I don’t work for anyone.

    Why are you not using your name, Bakerboy?

  7. Ben Sandilands


    There is no plan for a 4000 metre runway. The idea is to cross subsidise low fares that will induce people to make the trek to Richmond with higher fares for those who want to use Sydney. The existing 2134 metre runway will be worked as hard as possible for single aisle shorter range flights. Badgerys Creek may even be turned into a nice flat part of a long and winding freeway from Prestons to Richmond via St Marys. My homework report has been filed on Plane Talking.

    It will of course make no difference to congestion at Sydney Airport but keep intact the inglorious record of consistent transport related planning failures in the Sydney Basin.

  8. Toby Fiander

    Time you got an up to date map, Ben.

  9. David Thackrah

    Well now I recall Senator Murray examining Badgerys Creek as a proposition but he said it would not work – fogs, size of facilities etc. Getting in and out of Sydney by air is fraught with risk and increasing travel time. Run the meetings using internet now and use Melbourne for meetings. Also I did hear the freight would go out to Parkes where the new huge rail centre is being created. I can imagine trying on Richmond, it would be like heading for Canberra.

  10. bakerboy

    Toby – my name is Alex (on the post – McDonnel. Maybe you should get a job (as an airport designer, perhaps?)

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