ABC Radio Sydney with Wendy Harmer and Robbie Buck

ROBBIE BUCK:

We are hearing this term "shovel-ready" a lot, at the moment, aren't we, Wendy Harmer?

WENDY HARMER:

Yes, we are indeed. And the news this morning is that construction will start this year on the Western Sydney Airport Rail Link. Over the weekend the Premier, Gladys Berejiklian, committed a new $3 billion acceleration fund to go towards job creating projects, and this increased the government's infrastructure pipeline to a guaranteed 100 billion. So, to tell us more, we're joined by the Federal Minister for Population, Cities and Urban Infrastructure, Alan Tudge. Good morning, Minister.

ALAN TUDGE:

G'day Wendy. Hi Robbie.

ROBBIE BUCK:

Good morning. Okay, well tell us about the fast tracking and, pardon the pun, of the Metro to the Western Sydney Airport.

ALAN TUDGE:

Well, this is a really exciting project and it's going to connect up the Metro from St Marys with the new station, Orchards Hill, and at Luddenham and then on to the airport. It's almost an $11 billion project and it's going to create 14,000 jobs over the next six years before it opens at the time for the Western Sydney Airport to be officially opened.

ROBBIE BUCK:

Okay. Tell us about the responsibilities or the bill that's going to go to the Federal and to the State; how much is each putting in for this?

ALAN TUDGE:

We are putting in fifty-fifty into this project and we have just upped it about an extra $3.5 billion collectively since our initial estimates a couple of years ago and that, all up, means about $11 billion. That is on top of the 5.3 billion of federal money that we are putting into the Western Sydney Airport project itself, plus we have about $3.5 billion in other roads around Western Sydney. So there is just an enormous amount of construction and activity going on there, and that is absolutely great news for Western Sydney people so that they can live, work and play all out in the Western Sydney area.

WENDY HARMER:

So, 14,000 jobs you say: what kind of jobs will they be?

ALAN TUDGE:

They are going to be all sorts of different types. So obviously all the trades, plus your crane and your forklift operators, your tunnellers, your surveyors, your truck drivers, plus all the other suppliers of the goods, which will be required in this as well. So, this is a monster job-making project.

WENDY HARMER:

We had a text from one of our listeners who says all this money seems to be going into male dominated industries and where is a similar injection for those who - for perhaps female dominated sectors who've done just as badly?

ALAN TUDGE:

Well, I mean, I think all the companies are doing much better these days at getting women into the construction industry, to be honest, and if you go out on the sites, and I'll be heading out to the Western Sydney Airport site today, you do see a lot of women on site. But, I mean, some of the more traditional female dominated industries such as the health sector, I mean they're particularly feeling it at the moment and we've really boosted the efforts there, as you know.

ROBBIE BUCK:

Okay. Give us an idea of the timeframe for this route. When is it going to open and what kind of figures are you projecting in terms of, you know, how it's going to be used and where people are travelling on it?

ALAN TUDGE:

It's going to start construction this year and it will be finished in 2026 which is when we're forecasting for the Western Sydney International Airport to be officially opened. So the plan was always to get the airport built and to have rail and freeway connections from the day that the airport would be opened. It will connect up this railway line, as I said, from St Marys and then curve around a new station at Orchards Hill, a new station at Luddenham, and then on to the airport precinct itself, and then it will be past the airport onto what we're calling the Western Sydney Aerotropolis, which is a larger commercial zone as well. So it's about 15 kilometres all-up, sorry, about 23 kilometres, all-up, of track; about 15 minutes from St Mary's to the airport.

ROBBIE BUCK:

Okay, and what about to the centre of the city from the airport, what kind of timeframe?

ALAN TUDGE:

Well, I'm not sure what the timeframe is. If you are a commuter who is going into town, I guess that's probably an hour but I don't know the precise time.

ROBBIE BUCK:

All right.

WENDY HARMER:

Okay. Well, one of our listeners in Leichhardt, Minister, he wants to put you through your hoops this morning. He says that this new injection of 3.5 billion into the Sydney Airport Rail Link is being characterised as a cash injection, when in fact it's probably, if you look at the original build date, scope and figures, it's more like a cost blow-out. What do you say to that?

ALAN TUDGE:

Well, two things to that. I mean, being that since the initial design we've actually added about 5.8 kilometres worth of tunnelling. So, most of the additional cost is for tunnelling and things like putting the St Marys station underground, and that obviously all adds cost, but what it does is add considerable amenity to residents out that way. And the second point though is that since two years ago, we've updated the details of cost analysis. You have the full business case, which obviously fine tunes those figures and gets yourself into the position to go out to market and get construction underway.

ROBBIE BUCK:

Okay. At, I guess, a slightly broader level to do with the airport, whenever we discuss that on the radio, there are lots of concerns from people who live in Western Sydney. They're all appreciative of the jobs and the economic benefits, but they are really concerned about the nature of an airport operating 24 hours a day in their part of the world, and I guess a lot of people in the Blue Mountains are feeling that concern as well. What is your message to people in the area about having planes coming in and out 24 hours a day?

ALAN TUDGE:

Listen, I can understand some of their concerns and I'll be particularly interested in the flight paths and we have still got many years to go before we'll be finalising those, because obviously the airport won't be open until 2026. What we do know, though, is largely and where possible they will be taking off and landing from the south-west, which is where the least densely populated areas. And the other thing I I'd say on this too, is that the airport was designed really well, in part because the land was set aside, as you know, 50 years ago, and it means that about 10 kilometres at either end of the runway will be almost completely resident-free, if you like; whereas, you know, at Kingsford Smith, you've got houses within, you know, I think it's 500 metres or a kilometre.

ROBBIE BUCK:

Okay.

WENDY HARMER:

And can you remind us, Minister, just of some of the other "shovel-ready" projects that you're looking at for New South Wales?

ALAN TUDGE:

Well, this is the single biggest one, which we are announcing today but then we have projects right across Australia in terms of shovel ready projects, and we are going to be announcing some more in the not-too-distant future as well. You might recall over just a couple of weeks ago we announced a further $500 million to go towards the local councils so that they can do those really localised projects in every suburb across the State but there'll be more to come.

ROBBIE BUCK:

Okay. Well, it looks like there's going to be a lot of shovels ready to go, if that is the case.

ALAN TUDGE:

Well, that's what we hope.

ROBBIE BUCK:

That's the term we're hearing, absolutely. Minister, we will leave it there but thank you very much for your time this morning.

ALAN TUDGE:

Yes, thanks very much Robbie and thank you Wendy.

WENDY HARMER:

Thank you.

ROBBIE BUCK:

Alan Tudge who is the Federal Minister for Population, Cities and Urban Infrastructure.