REGIONAL leaders have slammed a report on the future of aviation in the Sydney basin, labelling it as “dealing a potential killer blow” to regional air passenger services.
Among those at a state government transport regional forum in Tamworth last night, both Gunnedah and New England leaders wanted to put their points on a long-term master plan for transport services.
Northern Tablelands independent MP Richard Torbay was there, saying he had serious concerns not only about air travel for regional users but also community transport into the future.
Gunnedah mayor Adam Marshall said that if recommendations contained within the Joint Study on Aviation Capacity for the Sydney Region were adopted, the expansion of NSW rural and regional air services into Sydney would be permanently blocked.
“Communities such as Gunnedah would stand absolutely no chance of ever reacquiring an air service into Sydney’s Kingsford-Smith Airport and those with current a service would be prevented from ever gaining additional or improved flight access,” Cr Marshall said.
“From the perspective of expanding or improving NSW rural and regional air passenger services this report is a killer – it’s as if they simply don’t want any more people west of the divide to be able to fly into Sydney in the future.”
The 442-page report, commissioned by the state and federal governments, contains 20 recommendations about future airport infrastructure planning, integration of future airport operations with transport networks and the establishment of a second
But it’s the recommendations surrounding runway slot allocations that drew the ire of Cr Marshall and his colleagues at a council meeting this week.
“While the report recommends the protection of existing runway slots for current regional passenger services, from 2015 only planes with more than 50 seats would be given access to Sydney, then by 2020 only those with more than 70 seats would be permitted,” Cr Marshall said.
He said that REX Airlines, Aeropelican and Brindabella had no aircraft of more than 50 seats in its fleet, while QantasLink’s only aircraft on NSW regional services with more than 50 seats was the Dash8 Q400, which has 76 seats.
“Under this regime, after 2020, it may well be easier to access Sydney by air from overseas than from regional NSW – that’s simply not good enough,” Cr Marshall said.
“Any new regional air services will be locked out and forced to fly to a second Sydney airport, if one is established, or simply prevented from getting off the ground in the first place.”
Cr Marshall said direct air links to Sydney were essential in rural and regional NSW for economic development, the carrying out of business, for medical appointments, services and personnel, government business and tourism.