Labor’s plan to build a rail line to the proposed second Sydney airport at Badgerys Creek has sparked a debate between the major parties at both state and federal levels.
NSW Labor leader Luke Foley announced on Friday that Labor will build a rail line to the proposed Western Sydney Airport at Badgerys Creek before the airport is operational.
But Foley said Labor can only follow through on that promise if it wins the NSW election at the end of the month, and if Labor comes into power at the next Federal election, which must occur within the next 22 months.
“Unlike Mike Baird and Tony Abbott, State and Federal Labor will ensure there’s a train line servicing the airport when it opens – not years down the track,” Foley said.
“The rail link to Badgerys Creek is just another example of Mike Baird failing to take the fight up to his mate Tony Abbott on behalf of the people of NSW.”
Federal shadow minister for transport and infrastructure, Labor’s Anthony Albanese, was with Foley to announce Labor’s commitment to the project.
“Tony Abbott’s support for an airport to be built in Western Sydney without a link to the rail network is absurd,” Albanese said.
“It’s no shock that Mike [Baird] hasn’t come out against his mate Tony.
“Badgerys Creek is a greenfield site, providing the perfect opportunity for state and federal Governments to work together and build the airport and associated infrastructure properly.”
Albanese said the funding for the rail line would be factored into the lease to whichever private company or consortium constructs and operates the airport.
Albanese’s direct opponent, federal minister for infrastructure and regional development Warren Truss, called the joint press conference a “brain snap,” and questioned the funding plan.
“Really?” Truss asked.
“The lessee is going to have to build an airport that will not break-even for years and not process sufficient passengers to justify a rail line for a decade or more.”
Truss pointed out that Albanese was “the same guy who wanted to put the airport at Wilton” during his tenure as transport and infrastructure minister, and “the same guy who failed to fund the South West Rail Link when he was minister”.
Truss also criticised the NSW Labor party, which he said during its last tenure “announced 12 rail line projects, but only built half a line at twice the cost and double the timeframe for delivery (Parramatta to Epping).”
Gladys Berejiklian, NSW Liberal’s minister for transport and infrastructure, echoed Truss’s criticisms.
“Labor’s announcement today is that they will build a new train line if two Labor governments are elected and all the stars align,” Berejiklian said, “or maybe when pigs fly.”
Berejiklian said the latest Transport for NSW estimate costed a 24km line from the South West Rail Link to the Western Line via Badgerys Creek at close to $2.5 billion, significantly more, she said, than Labor thinks it will cost.
“Let’s be clear,” she added, “Labor have not made a clear commitment of a single dollar to this project today.
“Typical Labor, transport planning on the back of an envelope two weeks before an election with no funding to back it up.”
Albanese responded to the criticisms on Friday evening.
“The [Liberal] Government would say [the funding was unachievable] because they don’t have a plan to build a rail line to a new airport,” the shadow minister told Patricia Karvelas on ABC’s Radio National.
“It’s quite extraordinary that in all the discussions that have gone one around a need for a second Sydney Airport, all of them had as one of the obvious things to [build] was a rail link, as well as improved road links.
“The road links are happening, but the rail links aren’t happening, because the Abbott Government has this bizarre view of the world, which is that the Commonwealth should have nothing to do with rail, just roads only. And Mike Baird … has just gone along with that.”
As for the $2.5 billion price tag referenced by Berejiklian, Albanese asked: “Have you seen the figures, Patricia? Because none of the other journalists that have raised those figures have seen them.
“We found that the cost of the rail line, just from Leppington just being extended to Badgerys Creek, which is half the distance, would be around $300 to $400 million.”
The Department of Infrastructure expects transport operations to commence at Badgerys Creek in the mid-2020s.