An extract from the Metronet map


Actually, on three fronts, if we include what to do about Newcastle Airport, which faces strangulation as growth outpaces the capacity it can have in what is a lease in a vital and increasingly busy air force base at Williamtown, north of Newcastle.

But this morning the main games are in Sydney and Perth. In Sydney The Telegraph is running a Galaxy poll that finds very high levels of support for a 2nd Sydney Airport among rural and city voters, and a predominant preference for building it at Badgerys Creek, the site owned by the Commonweath, with Wilton, the site now built over by new housing estates, the least popular.

In Perth the row is about both major parties, in the final race to the polls in a state election, planning to build almost identical rail links to the city’s airport, where a long tradition of planning brilliance and vision has created the most dysfunctional division of international and domestic terminals in Australian aviation, if not in the world.

However Perth has no chance of beating Sydney in the airport lunacy stakes, but does at last face the real prospect that both sides of WA politics will seriously address the opportunities to include useful airport rail links on the way to delivering a metropolitan wide integrated set of commuter rail solutions.

In Sydney the 14 September federal poll stands astride the political year as a monumental excuse for policy paralysis all around, unless someone takes the view that building Badgerys Creek would be a poll winner as a circuit breaker for jobs and economic activity and general commuter travel benefits in greater Sydney in general and western Sydney in particular.

Without an airport, Sydney West is generating demand for flights out of the existing airport in Sydney’s East that is caused commuter congestion around that airport, and adversely affecting traffic flows across the metropolitan area.

The NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell’s policy setting is that Sydney West should continue to schlep to Sydney’s East, to catch an unbuilt fast train to Canberra Airport, which his government has crippled in an act of gratuitous ignorance by giving tacit approval to a housing estate so close to the state line near that airport that it would no longer have a future as an expanding 24 hour airport.

It remains unclear as to why O’Farrell thinks Sydney’s West should first go East to get a fast train that will then in a parallel universe go back through where they came from to a Canberra Airport 290 kilometres away which the airlines won’t be able to use effectively anyhow.

Indeed the fastest way for anyone going to Canberra from Sydney to catch a plane to Melbourne, or Mumbai, would be to fly there from Sydney Airport.

Which would be just as daft as catching a fast train that would not be all that fast if it was designed to set down and pick up in three or four parts of Sydney in order to avoid the dysfunctionality of a main terminal for a fast rail service in a city which in terms of road and rail traffic measures around two hours north-south and east-west in terms of realistic trips and connections.

Most of the arguments against doing the obvious, and building a Sydney West airport at Badgerys Creek, ignore the shape and depth of demand for air services that is growing across the Sydney basin.

This is true too of the various Hunter Valley and central coast airport proposals.  They are useless for relieving the congestion building up as Sydney’s west expands.  However they are good ideas when it comes to the rise in air travel demand across the greater Newcastle/Hunter and central coast growth areas, just as the nearly competed new terminal at Canberra Airport is highly appropriate to its  growth in air travel.