Transcript of Interview: 2UE

Interview

PFI010/2015

13 November 2015

Topics: Western Sydney Airport and the potential for a rail link

Stuart Bocking: There's been a lot of talk about the need for a sort of high speed rail link, certainly, between the CBD and Badgerys Creek once that airport is built and today a very important launch of what is a now a scoping study that will have a look at the various options around all of this. It is critical if we're going to do the thing properly, let's get it right the first time and rail has to be a part of all of that. Paul Fletcher is the Minister for Major Projects in the Turnbull Government and I am pleased to say is on the line. Minister, good morning.

Paul Fletcher: Good morning Stuart.

Stuart Bocking: Thank you for your time. What are we looking at here? What are some of the options when you launch this today with the Federal and State Government?

Paul Fletcher: That's right, so the New South Wales and Federal governments are coming together to establish a scoping study into the options for rail to the Western Sydney Airport. So, Western Sydney Airport scheduled to commence operations in the mid 2020 and to start with, about five to 10 million passengers a year, that'll build up over time. Now, there is a very significant package of ground transport connections already announced and work under way, a $3.6 billion project that upgrades to the Northern Road, Bringelly Road, we're going to build the new M12 Expressway which will run from the M7 to connect to the airport. But definitely(*) there's the question of rail…

Stuart Bocking: Yes.

Paul Fletcher: …and so this coping study that we've announced today is going to look very carefully at the options for rail. We're going to look at what the route should be to where the line should actually run, when it should be built and, very importantly, how it should be funded because it's going to be a multibillion dollar exercise to build a rail connection. Now, one of the important questions is, the connectivity to the airport from the major urban centres of Western Sydney, Campbell Town, Liverpool, Penrith and so on, because Western Sydney Airport will serve people in Western Sydney, an area that's—it's projected to grow from two million now to three million people over the next 20 years.

It's also going to be a major jobs generator, by 2031 it's expected to have around 9000 jobs so it's going to be very, very important to have the best possible connectivity to the airport from Western Sydney and so that's why it's important to do this study to have a careful look at what the right route should be, what's the right timing for it and of course how it will be funded and it's important that we have the New South Wales and Federal Government working together on this, the Baird and Turnbull Government working in lockstep on this to identify the best possible options for rail connectivity to Western Sydney Airport.

Stuart Bocking: There's no question about that. We know initially it is going to be one runway. I remember Warren Truss, the overall minister responsible in this area just a couple of weeks back when he was talking about the longer term plans for the Badgerys Creek Airport that it wouldn't involve rail initially. That might come at some point down the track as numbers build. Is this now recognition that rail is absolutely crucial to this project from the moment it starts operating?

Paul Fletcher: Well look we've always said that there will be a rail connection at the appropriate point and the airport is being planned to be rail ready. That's to say as part of the airport, we're planning tunnels for the rail line to go into and what's called a station box which is the excavation which is where the station will then be built…

Stuart Bocking: [Interrupts] So rail—just to clarify, rail ready doesn't necessarily mean that the train actually runs from day one, but that routes are mapped out and some of the other infrastructure work surrounding that has already been undertaken?

Paul Fletcher: Well, it first of all means that within the airport precinct itself, you've mapped out where the line will run, where the station will be. Then the questions is what's the connection from the airport into the Sydney Metropolitan Rail Network and that's the question that this study is going to focus on and that's why it's so important that we have the New South Wales and Commonwealth Government working together. Of course, a key point here is that it's the rail needs, not just for the airport, but of the broader Western Sydney area because the airport will catalyse economic growth and development but there's plenty of other things happening in Western Sydney and we need to make sure that the rail planning meets the needs of Western Sydney as well as the Western Sydney Airport…

Stuart Bocking: [Talking over] Yeah well, that's right. Well, you have a look, as it is now, the South West Rail Link which runs through Edmondson Park and Leppington. It stops at Leppington but it's only a hop, skip and a jump onto Badgerys Creek and already of course at a state level, there's been talk of extending that through Bringelly onto Narellan, ultimately, as an extension of the South Western Rail Link which then ties you into centres like Narellan, obviously Camden, that link runs back to Glenfield which gets you onto Liverpool and Campbelltown so that would be a key part of the planning here I'd imagine.

Paul Fletcher: Well, Stuart, you're exactly right. That's what we've got to look at. When  you say a hop, skip and a jump, you're right, that is the closest—or that's a relatively close connection, it's still about 14 kilometres and when you look at the typical cost of building rail, most recently, as the connection to Leppington or North—the North West Rail Link, you project the cost of those because it's going to be multibillion dollar exercise to get from Leppington to the airport but I guess, a key focus of the study is to say let's do the detailed work on which is the right rail route, which is the right connection, exactly what path should it take?

I mean, even if between Leppington and the side of Western Sydney Airport there's multiple different paths you could take and then of course, how is it to be funded and indeed, the Prime Minister, for example, has been talking a fair bit about the Turnbull Government's interest in a value-capture approach for funding infrastructure and that's the basic idea that when you build a major piece of transport infrastructure like a rail link or indeed as we saw with the M7 a few years ago, you get a major uplift in property value and one of the questions is whether you can tap into that and capture a proportion of that to help fund the very large capital cost…

Stuart Bocking: [Interrupts] That's right, through developers, that's right. And obviously the existing operators of Sydney Airport who have first right of refusal they would have a part to play in all of this as well I would imagine given that they're effectively or, pardon the pun, getting the rails run if they decide that they are going to be the operators of this second airport. In terms then of the link back to the CBD, I suppose, there's range of options, whether you go underground, whether it's a slower trip back via Parramatta and beyond or whether you look to have a faster link that perhaps only stops at one or two stations before it gets back to Redfern and Central.

Paul Fletcher: And you're right. Those are all questions that we need to work through a scoping study and it's all linked together because it partially depends upon where you think the bulk of the passengers would be coming from, will the catchment area be Western Sydney or will it be the entire Sydney Metro area? What's the mix of the domestic and international flights for example? So, that's one reason why it's very important that we have the New South Wales and Federal Governments working closely together on this so that we've got a very good handle on what we believe the passenger mix will be and what sort of traffic that will then put onto the rail link.

But then, of course, this other question about what are broader rail needs for Western Sydney and how would any connection to the airport integrate with and be part of meeting those broader rail needs so that we can get the maximum economic benefit from this major piece of infrastructure this new airport, being delivered by the Commonwealth, but working very closely with the New South Wales Government in terms of all their planning work in relation to Western Sydney and South Western Sydney as growth areas.

Stuart Bocking: Well, it's certainly going to be a huge economic driver and this is one of those opportunities to start almost from scratch to try and get things right, albeit we are trying to integrate into existing systems, whether that be roads, rail and other things but some exciting times ahead. So, launching that today and I appreciate your time this morning.

Paul Fletcher: No, worries Stuart, great to chat.

Stuart Bocking: Appreciate it. Thank you. The Federal Minister for Major Projects, Paul Fletcher.