State urban infrastructure minister Paul Fletcher does not believe a rail link is vital to the success of the planned Western Sydney Airport when it first becomes operational.
The minister was in Oran Park this morning to address a selection of business and community representatives from Macarthur at an event hosted by the newly-formed Camden Region Economic Taskforce.
Mr Fletcher told the Advertiser a rail link would definitely be a part of the airport precinct at Badgerys Creek in the future, but it was not a must for the first day of operation in 2026.
“The honest answer is, from an airport perspective, rail is not that important from day one,” he said.
“The question of rail is very important in terms of the urban growth and development in this region, but from a pure airport point of view, rail is not a critical success factor in the early years of the airport and you can’t justify the rail on the strength of the airport alone.”
Mr Fletcher said the people behind Singapore’s Changi Airport – “the most efficient people in the world, arguably” – did not introduce a rail link to their precinct until several years into operation.
He said studies indicated the rate of Sydneysiders utilising rail to travel to the existing Kingsford-Smith Airport at Mascot was just 20 per cent, and a similar number could be expected when Western Sydney Airport was off the ground.
“When you take the expected passenger numbers and you ask what percentage of those people will use the rail, using Kingsford Smith and other numbers as a guide, then ask how many trains that would fill, the number goes nowhere near justifying a rail link,” he said.
“That is not a controversial proposition.”
The minister said the upgrades to the road network around the airport – including Bringelly Road, The Northern Road and Elizabeth Drive – would ensure western Sydney residents could easily access the site.
“The road system has been designed to allow efficient transport access to the airport,” he said.
“There will be excellent, excellent road connectivity.
“I’m drawing a distinction between when the airport opens and where it will be in 20, 30 or 40 years.
“There’s no question that there will be rail to the airport, the question is simply ‘when’. The state and federal governments are working through that.”
Mr Fletcher said there was a ‘scoping study’ under way looking to answer all the questions surrounding rail to and from the airport.
At this stage, experts have identified three possible options for trainlines to Western Sydney Airport.
The first would see a north-south line starting in Camden or Narellan, linking up to the airport then on to St Marys and Schofields. This would be the most expensive of the three rail options.
The second option would see the a line running from North Bringelly east to Parramatta, while the third would be an extension of the new Leppington Station to the airport.
“It would be a multi-billion dollar cost for any of the options,” Mr Fletcher said.
Camden MP Chris Patterson indicated he was in favour of the Leppington extension.
“The member for Hume, Angus Taylor, myself and [Camden mayor] Lara Symkowiak met with the Premier two weeks ago and we’re advocating for Leppington,” he said.
“We’d like to see an extension, it’s our backyard, so that’s what we’d like.
“We understand there’s a number of options if it’s not Leppington, there’s options for people from Leppington and Campbelltown to still access the airport, but from a local perspective we are advocating to our federal and state colleagues that that is our desired outcome.”
Cr Symkowiak was not quite as sold on the Leppington extension as Mr Patterson.
“I want the most direct route from Camden-Narellan, whether or not that’s through Leppington and the south-west rail link,” she said.
“I just want the most direct route for our residents and a lot of them will be coming from the Camden, Narellan and Oran Park areas.”
In the first few years of operation Western Sydney Airport is expected to see three to four million passengers, growing to 10 million in the years after.
By comparison, Kingsford-Smith Airport currently carries about 41 million passengers each year, while Canberra Airport carries three million.
The minister expects the first day of operation will see flights to all Australian capital cities, New Zealand and Bali, with further potential to travel to Asia and beyond in decades after.
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