The Abbott government will not build a train line to a new airport at Badgerys Creek, but says it wants to allow for a rail link to be easily added to a working airport later.
This would mean digging tunnels for train lines and a station at the same time as runways are prepared for the airport but not using them for years.
‘‘We are very much attracted to the idea of ensuring that any work associated with the railway is incorporated in the design of an airport at Badgerys Creek,’’ federal Transport Minister Warren Truss said.
‘‘If, in fact, it is going to be necessary for that line to be underground, and that’s possible on the basis of the preliminary planning that’s been done, it would be our view that we would probably build the actual tunnels underneath the runways so that it won’t disturb the runway at a later stage,’’ Mr Truss said.
‘‘There’s also a view that we would probably build a space, an underground space for the station that would be at the airport,’’ he said.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott has a view that federal governments should not pay for public transport. On Wednesday, he promised $1.2 billion would be spent on upgrading at least three roads around the Badgerys Creek site: Bringelly Road, Elizabeth Drive, and the Northern Road.
Design experts say the practice of building empty tunnels underneath airports to be filled later with rail equipment is increasingly common.
‘‘You don’t have to have it for day one of operations,’’ the head of aviation at engineering firm Arup, Ronan Delaney, said of a rail line, but it would be ‘‘foolish not to allow for that within your planning’’.
In Bangkok, tunnels were dug under a new airport terminal building but have not yet been used.
‘‘We safe-guarded tunnels that go under the terminal building,’’ Mr Delaney said. ‘‘There are mothballed stations that are not yet opened.’’
At a press conference at Liverpool Council to announce the road funding, Mr Abbott confirmed that he expected the Badgerys Creek airport to be almost entirely paid for by the private sector.
Sydney Airport Corporation will have first shot at signing the contract to build another airport at Badgerys Creek, which is expected to be operating within a decade. But if Sydney Airport does not take up the option in the next two years, other parties will be offered the chance to build the airport.
The most likely rail connection to a Badgerys Creek airport will be an extension of the south-west rail link to Leppington, which is expected to open next year.
The rail link adds stations at Glenmore Park and Leppington beyond where it connects to Sydney’s existing train system at Glenfield.
But in contrast to the area around the north-west rail link, there has been only patchy development directly next to the south-west line.
Next to Leppington, for instance, where a vast new station has been built with underground platforms and a cavernous concourse area, the closest property remains a hydroponic lettuce farm.
Farmer Paul Manicaro, who has grown lettuce – and more recently kale and Chinese vegetables – on the property since 1986, was not enthusiastic about either the train line next to him or the prospect of an airport 15 kilometres away.
‘‘If you were building an airport, would you do it here where there is people, or would you do it far away?’’ Mr Manicaro said.