Sydney Airport's runway dependence means more noise for inner west residents

Sydney Airport will rely on its parallel north-south runways for almost all of its flying hours by the end of the decade, a report prepared for the government says, meaning more flights over suburbs immediately north and south of the airport.

Fairfax Media revealed on Monday that the airport's noise-sharing targets had not been met for any of the 17 years they had been in force.

In particular, suburbs immediately north of the airport, which are supposed to have 17 per cent of landing and taking-off planes overhead, had experienced more than 30 per cent of flights for the past three years.

A committee commissioned by the state and federal governments warned in 2012 that Sydney Airport’s noise-sharing arrangements – designed to share aircraft noise as evenly as possible across the city – would become increasingly unattainable.

As airport traffic increases, it will become more dependent on the greater capacity of its two north-south runways, rather than the single east-west airstrip. In addition, newer, larger aircraft – though quieter than older planes – can use only the north-south runway.

"By around 2020, the noise-sharing modes will only normally be available in early mornings and late evening," the report said.

"There is no scope to extend the site of Sydney Airport to increase the capacity of the runway system to address the underlying constraint on long-term capacity."

The report recommended that the targets should be reviewed "with a view to setting achievable noise reduction targets for the airport based on the new generation, quieter aircraft types". The recommendation was rejected by the government.

A Sydney Airport spokeswoman said the airport’s master plan, approved by the federal government this year, forecast passenger numbers rising to 74 million annually by 2033.

"The plan shows that the airport has ample capacity and noise sharing will continue to occur over that period," she said.

Airport representatives had consulted with hundreds of residents over its master plan, and the main issue raised was transport to the airport, not noise, she said.

Allan Rees, from No Aircraft Noise, said the noise-sharing targets were a political fix designed to calm public anger, and it was known the targets could never be met.

"Operationally, the airport just can’t do it," he said. "Those targets have never been achieved, and they’ve just sat on their hands and said 'it’s nothing to do with us'."

Mr Rees said there needed to be a drastic rethink of the airport's operation. "The whole history of Sydney Airport has been a series of blunders, of quick fixes."

Marrickville Greens councillor Max Phillips said that within a few years, 80 plane movements an hour would be scheduled for most of the day. "The east-west runway will effectively be mothballed with residents of the inner west copping almost all the noise."

In April, Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced a second airport for Sydney would be built at Badgerys Creek, but without specific details of how the airport would operate. The Sydney Airport Corporation has the right of first refusal to build that airport.

Sydney Airport is subject to a curfew between 11pm and 6am, and a cap of 80 plane movements an hour. The federal government has ruled out any changes to the cap or curfew.

The story Sydney Airport's runway dependence means more noise for inner west residents first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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