Australia green lights second Sydney airport

2014-04-15 09:38

Sydney -The Australian government Tuesday gave the go-ahead to a second international airport for Sydney, ending decades of indecision with a move expected to boost the national economy.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott confirmed that Badgerys Creek, in western Sydney, will be the site of the new airport with planning to start immediately and construction from 2016.

"It's a long overdue decision which to be honest, has been shirked and squibbed by successive governments for far too long," the prime minister told reporters.

Sydney's Kingsford Smith Airport is the main gateway into Australia but suffers from capacity limits, with a former transport minister describing it as "built in an age when planes were small and few".

"All the studies show that without a second airport Sydney will be grievously underserviced," Abbott said, adding that the current airport would not be able to cope with forecast growth in passenger numbers in coming decades.

Badgerys Creek, about 45 kilometres west of Sydney's central business district, has long been proposed as a second airport site but has always been shelved due to fears of a local voter backlash.

Abbott, who swept to power in elections last September vowing to be known as an "infrastructure prime minister", said the development would proceed on a "roads first, airport second" basis.

- Jobs boost -

The costs of the estimated Aus$2.5 billion airport will be met mainly by the private sector, and the first flight was realistically not likely until the mid-2020s, he said.

But he said it would be good for economic growth and jobs, and had the potential to drive an increase in national gross domestic product (GDP) of almost Aus$24 billion by 2060.

The government projects it will create about 4,000 jobs in the construction phase, and go on to produce 35,000 jobs by 2035, increasing to 60,000 over time.

The previous Labor government had also argued for a second Sydney airport, with former transport minister Anthony Albanese saying the current airport's capacity limits had been hurting the national economy.

Kingsford Smith Airport, which is only eight kilometres from the city centre, handled 36.9 million travellers in 2012 and passenger numbers are forecast to increase to 74.3 million by 2033.

It accounts for 40 percent of international arrivals into Australia each year and 50 percent of international air freight.

The airport is subject to an 11pm-6am curfew, but Abbott said given so many fewer people lived near Badgerys Creek than Kingsford Smith the area would not suffer the same noise problems.

Abbott said the decision recognised the growth of Sydney's western suburbs, an area which is expected to see its population rise from two million to three million people in the next 20 years.

"A dedicated Western Sydney airport will service local aviation needs and be a much-needed relief valve for Sydney Airport," he said.

"It will be a major catalyst for investment, jobs growth and tourism in the region for decades to come."

David Borger, who heads the Western Sydney Airport Alliance, said before the announcement he believed residents would support the project which promises jobs, as well as rail and road upgrades.

However, some are still expected to disagree with the plan, with Stephen Bali from the No Badgerys Creek Airport Inc telling the ABC "large segments across western Sydney will be fighting against this".

Read more on:    flights  |  air travel  |  travel  |  travel international  |  aviation

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