SYD, I hate thee

I posted some comments earlier today in relation to an article by Ben Sandilands of the Crikey blog Plane Talking. Ben’s latest insightful post was on the recent spectacle that has been the New South Wales Government’s transport planning initiatives and the impacts on airline travel in and out of Sydney Airport.

The plan, now having passed through the hands of no less than three successive premiers is no closer to delivering fixes for any of Sydney’s transport problems. The latest version of the plan, released in the last couple of days has removed a number of improvements that would have made accessing the airport by road and rail that much easier.

Having just experienced the horror of surface access in and out of the airport, I decided to contribute my 0.02c to the post. Needless to say, its part rant, part analysis of the stupidity that is infrastructure planning and maintenance in Australia.

My two big beefs with Sydney Airport are:

  1. commuter rail rolling-stock being used on an airport service not designed for passengers with bags,
  2. approach roads and drop-off areas so overloaded with cars that it adds an extra 20min to your journey.

Needless to say, until Governments get serious about infrastructure planning, and making private owners of facilities such as Airports keep pace and ahead of the demand curve – we’ll be stuck in the same problems for time immemorial.

Ben et al: apologies in advance, I’m about to rant about SYD because that place drives me around the bend.

I couldn’t agree more with your statement that “Sydney Airport suffers from inadequate surface access by all modes,” judging from my experiences in the last 12 months, and more recently just last week.

The NSW Government needs to go back and sort this issue out – fast.

I used both road and rail for this recent trip. AirportLink is a nightmare, as getting to the platform involves at least two escalators/lifts (three to four if arriving on QF Domestic). SYD’s ticketing infrastructure is woeful, albeit the standalone single-trip EFTPOS/Credit Card terminals do offer a slightly faster method for an uncompleted single type ticket purchase.

Ticketing also needs to be revisited promptly, as while the single trip city price is in comparison to rail and direct bus route options in other Australian capitals, going beyond there is astronomical. Its also not possible to purchase one ticket that can be used for return without handing over your arm, leg and first born.

And then of course there’s the use of double-decked rolling-stock on the line, which fail to offer adequate areas for baggage leaving passengers jammed in the entry/exit if their bags are too heavy to lift/carry to the upper or lower decks. And the issues of passenger needs on rolling-stock for airport services still haven’t been addressed in the Waratah series trains due to enter service this year.

And after all of that, good luck being able to understand which station your train is arriving at so you know where to get off. The speakers on board Comeng, Goninan and Tangara rolling-stock are barely maintained, and combined with the terrible and fast pronunciation of the Conductors – inexperienced passengers aren’t in for a good first impression of the network.

And christ, road. What an unmitigated disaster. Poor signage from the City centre to the airport needs to be addressed so people know how to get there. Most people without a GPS would get lost or seriously confused trying to get their via the signposted route along Regent/Botany, as signage isn’t always present at key intersections along the route.

And then of course there’s trying to get to Domestic along General Holmes Drive, which is jammed solid by the looks of it and from out experience during morning peak. You’ll take 10-15 to traverse this section from Southern Cross/Eastern Distributor before reaching Reginald Ansett…

which is also overloaded as cars back up to drop-off at the pathetically small T2 & T3 decks. You can spend another 5-10min waiting on the elevated roadway just to reach your terminal. Of course this isn’t the problem of the NSW Govt, but Macquarie Airports isn’t doing much to relieve the situation which is firmly in their purview.

I cross my fingers that the NSW Govt. isn’t sitting back waiting for the feds to make a move on a 2nd airport for SYD in the vain hope it will relieve their need to spend on transport infrastructure to their existing major airport. We all know the political willpower just isn’t there for a 2nd airport to become reality any time soon.

Right, bile spent. Normal programming resumed.