A fresh report released yesterday which predicts the number of air passenger movements through Australian capital and non-capital city airports will double to 279 million within the next 20 years means governments need to be looking at improved infrastructure.
Sydney Airport passenger numbers are expected to grow by 3.6 per cent to 70.2 million, placing more pressure on an airport which needs to expand.
At a regional level, passenger numbers at Tamworth Regional Airport are increasing significantly each year, and while a forecast for its numbers was not included in the latest Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics research report, it is in a far better position than Sydney as it has room to grow.
Successive governments have failed to cement a plan to meet the growing demand on Sydney Airport. A second airport in the Sydney basin has been talked about and analysed for decades, but no decisions have been made. The closest it has come is a proposal for Badgerys Creek west of Sydney.
To cloud the issue there are now other options being pushed – Canberra, Wilton south of Sydney, and an extension of Sydney Airport into Botany Bay.
The latter is a bold plan to reclaim some of the bay for the construction of two new runways. Its $5.2 billion price tag might be a cheaper option, but it will not resolve noise issues and will have a limited life span.
A new airport in an area where the airport can grow to meet future demand is the best long-term solution. It will resolve the issue for a long time to come.
The decision to build a second Sydney Airport will not be a popular one, particularly in areas which will be impacted by aircraft noise. But the increase in passenger numbers, both internationally and domestically, means more infrastructure will be needed.
Regional passengers do not want to be shunted to a secondary airport like Bankstown because the existing Sydney airport will be unable to cope with demand. The fact regional centres are dependent on smaller aircraft should not exclude them from access to the main domestic hub.
The federal government is encouraged to seriously consult and move forward a plan for a second Sydney airport as quickly as possible.
Delaying the decision will prove costly in more ways than one.