A new efficient airport for Sydney

Sydney needs a new efficient airport to replace the present Sydney Airport.  We need an airport that can serve all of Sydney’s future air transport needs, operate 24 hours and not pollute the city.  The sale of land at Mascot, after the new airport is operation will help pay for the new airport and its transport links into the Sydney network.

Badgerys Creek was chosen for a major second airport in 1985, but the Hawke Labor Government built a third runway at Mascot instead.  Since that time, residential development in western Sydney has made Badgerys unviable as a replacement airport site.

Where can the new airport go? 

Wilton examined in 1985

A few kilometres south of the small township of Wilton there is a disused World War 2 fighter dispersal airstrip. This runway was the site assessed in the second airport site selection program of 1985 undertaken by the Hawke government, along with Badgerys Creek.

The second airport proposal for Wilton had two parallel runways of 4 kilometres and 2.5 kilometres in length. The 4 kilometre runway was designed to take the next generation of jets up to 95 metre wingspan. The Boeing 747 jumbo jet has a wingspan of 65 metres and the new 550 seat Airbus A380 has a wingspan of 80 metres.

An overlay of the year 2024 noise contour for Sydney Airport shows that there would be almost nobody living within the 20 ANEF contour if Sydney Airport was moved to Wilton. The 2024 noise contour has the largest area affected of any prediction so far.  Affected homes could be purchased by the government under a voluntary compensation scheme. Aircraft noise would be south of Wilton and Appin, east of Bargo and Yerrinbool and west of the Wollongong suburbs.

The water catchment question

A common misconception is that Badgerys Creek was chosen over Wilton because of Wilton’s nearness to water catchments for Sydney and Wollongong. In fact, Badgerys was chosen as slightly closer to the city. The 1985 Wilton Airport design treated run off water and diverted it beyond the catchment area. Aircraft using Wilton would fly over some of the catchments, but with the present Sydney Airport they fly directly over people. Since 1985, the Water Board has installed nine filtration plants, which treat all of Sydney and Wollongong’s water supply so any pollution can be removed.

Location, location, location

The Wilton airport site is about 7 km from the Hume Highway and about 80 km from Sydney by road. Wilton is also close to the main southern railway line to Canberra and Melbourne and could be served by fast electric trains like those used on the Wollongong, Newcastle and Blue Mountains services.

There is a partly completed railway line which runs right past the airport site. The line was planned to carry freight, including coal, from the southern line to Port Kembla, but construction was halted by the Greiner NSW government in 1988. At the time Greiner was pushing for the third runway to be built at KSA and opposed to any second airport at Badgerys or Wilton.

The line to Wilton would be electrified and fast inter-urban electric trains used to link the site to Wollongong and Sydney. Travel to the city would be within one hour for the 85 km. If the Parramatta to Carlingford and Epping suburban rail link was completed, then trains could loop through Parramatta, Epping and Chatswood on airport express services. Parramatta is 74 km by rail from Wilton airport.

Airlines don’t like competition

The established airlines and the airport owners want to protect their current investments and would resist moving to Wilton. The restricted area and terminal space at the present airport has made it hard for new airlines to compete with established players and this restriction would end with all commercial participants having unfettered access at a new site.

Budget airlines are seeking a second airport in Sydney as the present airport is too expensive for low budget fares. They could be accommodated at a new airport with a cheap common user terminal.

Business fliers want to keep the inner city airport, which is convenient for frequent travel, but tourists are less time critical and don’t expect to be landed in the centre of a city. The business fliers are unlikely to want to pay for insulating all the homes affected by Sydney airport, they’d just like to continue pushing the external costs off onto the community.

Badgery's Creek vs Wilton

The Site Selection Study for a new airport for Sydney (Kinhill Stearns, 1985) assessed 10 sites, selecting Badgery's Creek and Wilton airport sites for a short list of 2 sites.

Badgery's Creek was selected, land was purchased, but primarily due to local opposition and consequent lack of political will, the plans were abandoned. The Government however retained the land.

A second airport for Sydney has again become a priority due to the well documented looming Capacity issue at Sydney Airport.

15 April, 14:  Tony Abbott announced that Badgery's Creek would be Sydney's next airport but won't tell us what type of airport Badgerys Creek would be i.e. a second airport, an overflow airport or supplementary airport and which flights  would use the alternative airport versus Sydney Airport. 

Consideration of the two sites (Badgery's and Wilton) is helpful.

Criterion Badgery’s Wilton
Ability for 24 hour operation Possible Curfew being discussed by politicians 15-20 times fewer people affected than Badgery’s
Distance from City 48 km 71 km (less congested route)
Train line Needs new railway line 5 km from exising
Road transport More road infrastructure required 4km off the existing M5/Hume Expressway
Fuel Delivery By train from Port Kembla New Pipeline or dangerous road/rail deliveries trough busy urban centres
Environmental Issues (water & subsidence) ? The previous labour federal government report into building a second airport at Wilton has found that it would be more expensive than Badgerys Creek due to work to protect the water catchment and extra earth moving on a hillier site.  There were also concerns about possible subsidence if coal mining was allowed beneath the site. Further studies were instigated
Air Pollution (airport is a “point source” for 4-5% hydrocarbon emissions of the city it serves) Site which is near the base of the Blue Mountains will cause the air pollution in the Sydney Basin to rise on all but very windy days. Wilton site is higher and outside the Sydney Air Basin. Pollution will drift away quickly from this site. In terms of numbers of people exposed to extra carcinogens, Wilton is 20x better than Badgery’s
NAN recommends that the airport be replaced to a site with good road and railway links to the city, where an environmentally acceptable 24 hour airport can be developed which meets the capacity needs of Sydney well into the future.

Wilton must be assessed

Wilton is the closest feasible site to Sydney for a replacement airport, it would affect very few people, who could all be properly compensated, it could have fast access to the city and the 1985 EIS found that the environmental impact would be acceptable. Wilton must be assessed as a replacement airport for Sydney.

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