Sydney’s second airport

This is part two of an ongoing series about building Sydney; the infrastructure boom that is changing the harbour city’s future. We started in January with a look at This part two of an ongoing series about building Sydney; the infrastructure boom that is changing the harbour city’s future. We started in January with a look at WestConnex, now we continue with the concern that Sydney’s new international airport may not have a rail link when it opens.WestConnex, now we continue with the concern that Sydney’s new international airport may not have a rail link when it opens.

Building Sydney logo

Sydney’s second airport has been given the green light by both state and federal authorities. Decades after the debate began, a large tract of land at Badgery’s Creek has been selected as the location for what is now being called Western Sydney Airport (airport code: SWZ). The airport is to be built in phases; construction is to begin this year, and phase one is to start operations around 2025.

(Image: Mw12310, Wikimedia Commons)

Sydney Kingsford Smith’s international terminal (Image: Mw12310, Wikimedia Commons)

44 kilometres west of Sydney’s city centre, the airport will be linked to the city by a network of roads;

  • a ‘spur’ motorway, linked to the M7 which lies 14 kilometres to the east. This will be known as the M12, or Western Sydney Airport Motorway.
  • an upgraded Northern Road, linking the airport to Narellan in the south, and Penrith to the north. This corridor is eventually to be developed as the M9, or Outer Ring Road, once warranted by Sydney’s suburban development.
(Base image: Google Maps)

(original image: Google Maps)

What is clearly missing from these plans is the rail link that most cities around the world are now rushing to build to their existing airports. Melbourne is talking about it, Delhi and Tokyo have done it, and Athens managed it for the Olympics in 2004.

And this is just the beginning; the world’s largest and busiest airports all have rail connections to the cities which they serve; think London, Paris, New York City and Moscow. Cities who caught up with infrastructure, like Dubai and Tehran, have also built or are building metro rail to the airport.

Moreover, airports which were built later, like Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport, Kuala Lumpur International and Hong Kong International were all built with mass public transport in mind.

One of the Dubai Metro's airport stations

One of the Dubai Metro’s airport stations

So why not Sydney? While it’s Sydney’s airport will open in phases, surely there is an argument to support opening the airport with public transport in place to begin with. Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has commented that rail should be a part of the development of Sydney’s new airport, touching off a state government study which is ongoing. However the need for a rail link for the airport when it opens is arguably a foregone conclusion – a question of “what” or “how”, rather than “if”.

As has already been identified, an extension on the one year old South West Rail Link would be one possible solution. It currently terminates at Leppington, some 15 kilometres south east of the airport site. An extended South West Rail Link could connect Sydney’s new airport directly to the existing Airport and East Hills Line, allowing travel from Badgery’s Creek to the city in under an hour. But is this sufficient?

South West Rail Link, highlighted as part of Sydney Trains' network. (Original image: Mqst north)

South West Rail Link, highlighted as part of Sydney Trains’ network. (Original image: Mqst north)

  • If you were arriving at Western Sydney Airport, would you want to share the already overcrowded rail network with regular commuters all the way through Liverpool, Revesby, Wolli Creek and into the city?
  • Will the trains on this route be equipped with appropriate luggage stowing areas? (Something sorely lacking from the current trains operating through the Kingsford Smith airport stations).
  • And if you were arriving at Western Sydney Airport and transferring to a flight at Kingsford Smith (or vice versa), could you depend on Sydney Trains in their current state to get your between the two airports in a timely manner?

Surely a dedicated, fast train shuttle service on the route Western Sydney Airport – Kingsford Smith Airport – Sydney City, with the required onboard luggage stowing facilities, would be the ideal solution, and not too difficult to achieve. The train would be fast, reliable, and only make three stops; the two airports (for those transferring) and the CBD. City centre check-in facilities could also be offered, much like what is available in Hong Kong.

International Terminal Airport Link Station, Sydney (Image: J Bar)

International Terminal Airport Link Station, Sydney (Image: J Bar, Wikimedia Commons)

These are all important questions to ask as the Western Sydney Airport rail study continues – and it seems I’m not the only one asking these questions. Kingsford Smith Airport has suffered from stop-gap measures since the 1980s to extend its life span (and delay the inevitable). What we ended up with was the expensive, underground and already congested Eastern Distributor, and the privately-owned and strangely underutilised (mismanaged?) Airport Link.

Western Sydney Airport site, Badgery's Creek (Image: Advanstra, Wikimedia Commons)

Western Sydney Airport site, Badgery’s Creek (Image: Advanstra, Wikimedia Commons)

Lack of planning and foresight continues to dog Kingsford Smith airport. Badgery’s Creek is a clean slate – why not try and get this one right?

Does Sydney’s second airport need a rail link already built when it opens? Comment below!

Comments (2)

  • Andrew Boland Reply

    i think regardless of train links being added they have to build the thing and as quickly as possible Tim, Sydney Airport made me look almost fondly on Melbourne airport it was so cramped and hectic and small for the traffic it gets. In desperate need for another.

    April 14, 2016 at 12:25 pm
    • Tim Blight Reply

      It’s really overdue, and it’s been talked about for way too long – it took the threat of total gridlock and airlines like Qatar threatening to avoid Sydney for the government to actually spring into action. Hopefully it will be up and running soon – WITH a train link!!

      April 14, 2016 at 12:42 pm

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