Airport rail must connect the West


Monday, 7 March 2016

Opinion piece by Penrith Mayor, Cr Karen McKeown

Last Friday 4 March 2016, Parramatta Council and the Sydney Business Chamber unveiled plans for a new fast rail connection between Sydney, Parramatta and Badgerys Creek Airport.

There is no doubting the significance of Parramatta as Sydney's second CBD and the importance of effective connections to maximise this position. But a proposal for a rail line from the proposed airport to Parramatta should be cautiously approached. It has the risk of repeating the past errors of building spokes into the evermore congested hubs of Sydney and Parramatta. To work effectively, what Sydney needs is an outer orbital rail network.

And for the one million plus residents of Outer Western Sydney who spend hours commuting each day on congested roads and inefficient public transport, it's an insult to tell them once they get to Parramatta they can get to the City in 15 minutes. Where does that leave those of us who need to travel from the North West to the South West, areas booming in new industry and innovation but connected only by road or an ineffective public transport system that only takes us East?

There's no doubt the new Western Sydney Airport will be a game changer and we're seeing Western Sydney getting the investment it deserves in long overdue road upgrades. But to truly embed the airport in Western Sydney it needs to be connected by rail and become the centre of a jobs and investment hub.

Late last year the Federal and NSW governments announced a $2m study to investigate transport needs, particularly rail, in Western Sydney and to the new airport.

We are confident this study will show the airport should be connected to Western Sydney by rail and that this will stimulate almost unfettered development and economic prosperity far beyond the airport precinct, delivering jobs where the workers already live.

To maximise Western Sydney's productivity and realise the region's potential there needs to be more connection between the North West and South West Growth Centres, moving people and goods efficiently, linking Penrith, Blacktown and Campbelltown.

Rail will do that.

Rail would re-shape the region and be followed by new town centres that are thick with jobs of the future.

The alternative, more risky option is for the land around the airport to be developed without good transport and easy access, and so be largely occupied by big warehouses and logistics hubs, which employ small numbers of people who travel by car. This scenario would do little to address the significant and escalating jobs shortfall Western Sydney's residents endure.

Considering more than 70% of Western Sydney people leave their local area each day to go to work - sitting on congested motorways and crowded trains - these additional jobs can't come soon enough.

We recently undertook a survey which showed those commuters spend at least 10 hours per week - more than a day's work - getting to and from their jobs, even if they work in "Western Sydney," and are travelling less than 30 kilometres.

So while we appreciate Parramatta's bid for a fast connection to the CBD and the airport, we can't do so at the expense of the rest of Western Sydney.

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To find out more and to add your voice to our call for a dedicated national infrastructure fund, visit the Fund our Future website.

Information contained within this news release was correct as at Monday, 7 March 2016.