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16 April 2014

It’s been one long 70-year wait but it looks like Sydney-siders can celebrate – the city is finally getting a second airport. The federal government has approved a AU$2.4bn (€1.6bn) plan for the new site that will be built west of the city at an area called Badgerys Creek.

The plan is to let the airport operate 24-hours-a-day – solving what airlines say is a critical problem with the capacity at Sydney’s current hub, Kingsford Smith airport.

Airlines, businesses and government leaders are all applauding the move. “Sydney is the key gateway for air traffic in and out of Australia and the benefits of having two major airports will be felt nationwide,” says Alan Joyce, CEO of Qantas.

Supporters want to see the airport operating throughout the night. The current airport in Mascot has a restriction of 80 aircraft movements each hour – that includes both regional and international flights. There’s also a night-time curfew that severely limits capacity. But Sydney’s new airport at Badgerys Creek will also be a chance to radically redesign the passenger experience – a welcome change from Kingsford Smith with its cramped and sometimes dreary terminals.

The key concern though will be how planners link up the new airport with the rest of the city. Badgerys Creek is in the far western suburbs, some 50km away from the city centre. Anyone who has been to Sydney will know just how convenient it is to have the existing airport just a 15-minute cab ride away from the Town Hall or a quick train trip from Circular Quay.

It’s good to have a fantastic new hub but without transport links that are fast and inexpensive it will be a disaster before the first flight lands. They will need a high-speed rail link into town at a reasonable price to make this workable. Roads in the west are already a mess and clogging them up with buses and taxis heading east will be a disaster. Not to mention the fact that the views of the industrial and suburban west won’t be a great welcome.

Sydney has failed with many long-term transport plans it has tried to implement in recent years. That legacy will be the biggest obstacle standing in the way of a new airport being a success.

Phil Han is a producer for Monocle 24.


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