The state government has started to map out plans to extend Sydney's train system to a potential second airport site at Badgerys Creek in anticipation of a decision to approve the site.
But the state's plans for a train line to Badgerys Creek could put it at odds with the federal government, if it decides it wants to build an airport in western Sydney without first building a rail connection.
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Second airport decision 'not imminent'
Federal cabinet will make a decision on a second Sydney airport early in its first term, but Tony Abbott denies newspaper reports a verdict is imminent. Nine news.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott indicated on Wednesday his government would soon make a decision on Badgerys Creek.
Fairfax Media can reveal Transport for NSW has already hired consultants to examine a possible extension of the south-west rail link to the potential airport site. The south-west rail link is a 11.4-kilometre addition to the Sydney train system from Glenfield to Leppington, scheduled to open next year.
When detailed plans for the south-west rail link were first developed in the mid-1990s, it was always intended to extend the train line about another 15 kilometres from Leppington to the long-planned airport site at Badgerys Creek.
Internal state government reports at the time said it was critical to build the train line at the same time as the airport was being built.
This recommendation was made because it would cost billions of dollars more to have to tunnel underneath a Badgerys Creek airport once it was already operating.
If the train line was built concurrent with the airport, tunnels for the train line could be dug up and covered over – a much cheaper construction method than tunnelling under an operating runway.
At a press conference on Wednesday, Mr Abbott said: "The whole question of Sydney's second airport has been for too long in limbo."
Referring to News Ltd reports that a decision to approve an airport at Badgerys Creek would be taken by federal cabinet next week, Mr Abbott said: "The time frames I saw being speculated on in the media this morning, you should not necessarily accept.
"But we will make a decision, because that's what the public expect. The public elect a government to make decisions, not to put them off."
In supporting an airport at Badgerys Creek, the Abbott government would also approve a $200 million roads package for the area, focusing on nearby Elizabeth Drive.
But at a press conference on Wednesday, NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell indicated the NSW government would seek much more funding if an airport was to be built at Badgerys Creek.
"I do welcome signs that the federal government is prepared to make a decision about an issue that successive federal governments have had in the 'too hard' basket for more than 40 years," Mr O'Farrell said.
"But I reiterate that any such decision has to come with the funding package to ensure that the transport links are going to be appropriate. I note that when it cost between $35 million to $40 million a kilometre to build the M7, when it's costing around $80 million a kilometre to build the south-west rail link, reports today of a $200 million transport funding package seem to be missing a zero," he said.
Separately, a spokeswoman for Transport for NSW confirmed the department was examining an extension of the south-west rail link.
“The NSW Long Term Transport Master Plan identified 19 major transport corridors that should be preserved to ensure Sydney can meet its future transport needs," the spokesman said.
"This includes preserving a corridor for the possible extension of the south-west rail link to provide public transport services for rapidly growing communities in the south west," she said.
"We are now undertaking detailed planning to investigate the best options for preserving the south-west corridor. The future corridors being considered will link population, job and service hubs with Sydney's existing and future transport network.
"The NSW government is committed to laying the groundwork to ensure our transport system can cope with an increasing population in the next 20 years."