Transcript of Interview: 702 ABC Sydney Breakfast



13 November 2015

Topic: Western Sydney Airport rail link

Robbie Buck: So we've told that there's going to be a second airport, it's at Badgerys Creek, and then when people looked at the plans they said well hang on a second, where's the rail link? All the experts from around the globe say you have to put a rail link between the city and the airport if it's going to be a truly workable viable outcome. Well, with that in mind, perhaps we're a little bit closer to that. News today that the State and Federal Governments are launching option plans and a scoping study, whatever that means, for a rail line later this morning.

Paul Fletcher is the Federal Minister for Major Projects and joins us this morning. Paul Fletcher, good morning.

Paul Fletcher: Good morning Robbie.

Robbie Buck: Okay, take us through what these terms mean, a scoping study and options plans.

Paul Fletcher: Well what we want to do, the Federal Government and the New South Wales Government working together, is conduct this scoping study over the next 12 months to develop the options for rail to Western Sydney Airport, but also serving the needs of Western Sydney. So it's important to recognise that the rail needs are driven not just by Western Sydney Airport but by the enormous growth that is expected in Western Sydney, rising from two million to three million is the expected population increase over the next 20 years or so. Now the airport is obviously an important catalyst to that economic development and that population growth, but you will also have lots of other activity happening there. And so what the New South Wales and Federal Governments have agreed to do, working together, is to over the next 12 months carry out this scoping study, which is going to look at Western Sydney's rail transport needs, including serving the proposed Western Sydney Airport. And so the Western Sydney Airport scheduled to commence services by about the mid 2020s, but of course the study will also look at the broader rail needs of Western Sydney.

Robbie Buck: Okay. And why an announcement today? Why not 12 months ago when we were hearing about the second airport going ahead?

Paul Fletcher: Well because there's been an enormous amount of work going on in relation to various aspects of the airport. Recently we released the draft airport plan and the environmental impact statement; so the environmental impact statement is now open and out in the public domain, and we're receiving comments on that through the consultation process. That consultation process concludes on 18 December, or at least the deadline to receive comments is 18 December.

Robbie Buck: Okay does it …

Paul Fletcher: [Talks over] There's a whole series of processes underway in relation to the airport.

Robbie Buck: Okay. Does it have anything to do with the change of Prime Minister?

Paul Fletcher: This is, essentially driven by sensible planning approaches to the airport and the needs of Western Sydney. As Primer Minister Turnbull has said, the … Coalition Government federally will take an approach to infrastructure projects on their merits, we don't come with a predetermined view as to one mode of transport or another. But can I make the point, there's a $3.6 billion Western Sydney Infrastructure Plan which is the ground transport connections and road upgrades that we've already committed to. So that's upgrades [indistinct] …

Robbie Buck: [Interrupts] Okay. The point being though whenever we speak to aviation experts, and we do occasionally, about Badgerys Creek, they all say look if you don't put a rail line in it's just not going to cut it as an internationally airport, it's- you've got to have that rail line.

Paul Fletcher: Look it's- there's a number of factors to weigh up. When the airport opens in the mid-2020s it will start with probably around 5 to 10 million passengers a year. Now that will grow steadily over many years, and by 2060 or so it's going to be up in the 80 million a year passenger range. As a benchmark, today Melbourne Airport has about 33 million passengers a year—that does not have a rail link at the moment. Now all that being said, the airport [indistinct] …

Robbie Buck: [Interrupts] And for anybody who's in a cab in the middle of traffic trying to get to Melbourne Airport, it can be very difficult.

Paul Fletcher: Well the … the airport is already being designed to be rail-ready. So the plans include tunnels to be built for the rail line to go through, what's called a station box, which is an excavation for where the station will go. That's being included in the plans for Western Sydney Airport. Now, what this study will look at is the connection from the airport into the rail network. And one of the important questions is the connectivity to the airport from the major urban centres of Western Sydney, because that of course is where much of the passenger traffic will come from. Also the jobs at the airport, by 2031 we expect around 9000 jobs at the airport. It's designed to be a generator of economic activity as well as providing a service to the people of Western Sydney and the broader Sydney area.

Robbie Buck: Okay. Look, considering the amount of options papers and different reports that came with Badgerys Creek, and the length of time that it took for a decision to be made, do you agree that there is a certain level of cynicism about how long it might take for this outcome to actually come to fruition?

Paul Fletcher: Well the airport, as I say, is scheduled to open in the mid-2020s. There's an enormous amount of planning work underway, this is an additional element of that. But what's very important is that we've got the New South Wales and Federal Governments working together and taking an integrated look at the rail needs not just of the airport, but of the development around the airport both existing today but much more importantly what will exist in 10 years, in 20 years, and in 30 years time.

Robbie Buck: Alright. Paul Fletcher, thank you so much for your time.

Paul Fletcher: Thanks Robbie.

Robbie Buck: Paul Fletcher, the Federal Minister for Major Projects, and this announcement by the Federal and State Governments today that they are going to be looking into the plans, the possibilities of a rail link to Badgerys Creek servicing Western Sydney, option plans I think is- option papers is how they're terming it. Eighteen past seven now.