More than 200 earthmoving machines rolled onto a site next to Western Sydney Airport on Wednesday as the next stage of the project to build a new terminal and runway began.
However, questions have been raised of the readiness of a rail link to service the airport on its debut.
The airport’s head of infrastructure, Jim Tragotsalos, said major works will see 25 million cubic metres of earth transferred to make way for construction of the Nancy-Bird Walton terminal, runway, roads and rail.
“This is an exciting day not just for western Sydney, but for the nation, as this transformational project marks its biggest milestone yet,” Tragotsalos said.
“In total, we’re moving enough earth to fill around 10,000 Olympic swimming pools.”
Since initial earthworks marked the start of work to build Western Sydney International in September 2018, around 1 million worker hours have been racked up on the project and 1.8 million cubic metres of earth moved around the site.
Initial earthworks also involved realigning 1.6 kilometres of Badgerys Creek Road, which will become one of the gateways to the airport when it opens in 2026.
“On other projects these achievements would be showstoppers, but for Western Sydney International initial earthworks was just the beginning, covering only 6 per cent of the 1,780-hectare site,” Tragotsalos said.
“Major earthworks will see us moving up to 1 million cubic metres of earth a month, working across 67 per cent of the site, which is the entire footprint of the first stage of the airport.
“We’ll have hundreds of workers and more than 200 scrapers, excavators, graders, dump trucks and dozers, including some of the world’s biggest machines, on site getting to work on this mammoth task.
“We need to flatten what is a very hilly site – the difference between the highest and lowest points is equivalent to a 12-storey building – so we definitely have our work cut out for us.”
At least 30 per cent of jobs during the construction phase of Western Sydney International will go to western Sydney locals, with that figure increasing to 50 per cent when the airport opens.
The project will also support upskilling and training of local workers, with at least 20 per cent of jobs reserved for apprentices, trainees and other learning workers.
Market soundings have also commenced for more job-creating contracts including construction of the terminal precinct, runway and taxiways, and internal roads.
The project has, however, come under criticism from groups including Penrith City Council for the expected delay of a rail link to the airport site, which may create issues with traffic, as well as vital information on where additional train stations will be built in western Sydney to service the airport is still unknown.
Penrith City Council’s mayor Ross Fowler has called for Sydney Metro to come forward with the other station locations, some two years after the federal and state government committed to building a new Metro line connecting the airport with the existing western rail line at St Marys, to be operational when the airport opens in 2026.
“All that the government has delivered so far is uncertainty. We are being kept in the dark on important details of the train line and are very concerned that without appropriate station locations the communities of western Sydney will miss out on the promised jobs, housing and economic outcomes,” Cr Fowler said.
The $8 billion rail line was expected to open in 2026, along with the airport, but NSW Labor claims that’s now unlikely.
Shadow minister for transport Chris Minns told Ray Hadley on 2GB it will put a strain on current infrastructure.
“It will be encouraging people to come from overseas, or interstate, and they’ll be dumped in the middle of western Sydney, half an hour from the closest train station,” he said.