Institute of Transport and Logistics Studies

Planning for a second Sydney airport

Peter Thornton, General Manager - Infrastructure, WorleyParsons

18th Mar 2014  11:00 am - Lecture Theatre 2 (Room 112), Level 1, St James Campus, The University of Sydney, 173-175 Phillip Street, Sydney, NSW 2000


The Australian and New South Wales (NSW) Governments jointly developed an Aviation Strategic Plan (the Plan) for the Sydney Region which was released to the public in March 20121. To support the development of the Plan, a Joint Study was undertaken identify options and strategies to meet the aviation capacity needs of the Sydney Region over the short, medium and long terms (defined as 10, 25, and 25+ years respectively). A key input to this was the work lead by the authors to identify sites within the Sydney region which could potentially support the development of airports ranging in scale from a single runway commuter and general aviation scale to a full service, multi runway international scale airport.

For the purposes of the overall Sydney Region Aviation Capacity (SRAC) Study, the Sydney Region was initially considered to extend north to the Hunter Valley, south to beyond Nowra, south-west to Canberra and west to Lithgow and later encompassed about 20,000 sq. kms of terrain to be analysed.

The study proceeded through a number of stages firstly to identify localities which met a set of 10 high level Greenfield airport location criteria and. were broadly capable of supporting airport development then to reduce those localities using an evaluation process fields by assessment against 32 criteria on advice from the Steering Committee, the 18 localities were reduced to initially nine and, latterly, seven localities for which 'representative airports' concepts were prepared; those seven localities and the representative sites within them were subjected to a Rapid CBA assessment and further reduced to five "suitable site" localities. These five localities were then assessed in detail in four phase process:

  • Phase One - using GIS methods, coarse screening of five localities within the Sydney Region to identify broadly suitable land for airport development;
  • Phase Two - using GIS methods, application of key criteria to identify the more suitable lands within those areas;
  • Phase Three - using 1:25,000 scale mapping to provide enhanced detail, identification of suitable sites within the more suitable lands using airport site location planning principles and development of concept plans for both airport types for each site identified.
  • Phase Four - site and location specific analyses to identify the more suitable sites.

Following the identification, of the more suitable sites, of which Badgerys Creek was determined by the Steering Committee to be the most suitable site, a detailed analysis of the only major contender to Badgerys Creek - located near Wilton, NSW was undertaken.

This paper described the background, analytical process and summarizes the major findings of the study which has provided a platform for Government to make a decision as to where to develop additional aviation capacity in the Sydney Region. It is now widely reported that the Government will finally affirm the site that it already owns at Badgerys Creek as that place.


Peter is now Principal of his own consulting firm Transportation Associates Pty Ltd. Until recently he was one of WorleyParsons global leaders in infrastructure and transportation based in Sydney and General Manager - Infrastructure. Peter's personal area of practice is now mostly focussed in the strategic development, planning and design of transportation and infrastructure projects, drawing on his skills in engineering, environmental planning, and project economics. He has more than 40 years of experience in transport infrastructure across roads, airports, rail and ports. Over the period 2010 - 2013 he was the Project Director and Lead Author for a series of airport planning studies commissioned by the Department of Infrastructure and Transport to support the Sydney Region Aviation Capacity Study.

Peter holds Masters Degrees in Business Administration and Environmental Planning from Macquarie University and a first class honours degree in Civil Engineering from Sydney University, where he has been president of the Civil Engineering Foundation since 2007.

He is a Fellow of the Institution of Engineers Australia and of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport Australia and a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers, London.

Before the acquisition of TMG by WorleyParsons, he was Managing Director of TMG International (Australia) Pty Ltd for 5 years. Prior to this, he was a Director and Principal of Arup Australia for 13 years and before that an Associate Director of MacDonald Wagner.