Ports expert endorses container terminal plan

AN internationally recognised ports expert has endorsed a proposal to shift Port Botany’s container terminals to Newcastle.

The chair of Sydney University’s Institute of Transport and Logistics, Professor Michael Bell, said yesterday that the proposal was ‘‘worthy of investigation’’.

‘‘It raises fundamental questions about the future shape of Sydney in particular and NSW in general which should be investigated in a land use and transport study,’’ Professor Bell said.

The proposal is the brainchild of former BHP manager Greg Cameron, who was involved with the original plan for a container terminal on the steelworks site, which was first proposed in the mid-1990s.

Mr Cameron said the major political parties had ‘‘studiously avoided’’ his proposal but they should listen to Professor Bell’s ‘‘professional and unbiased views’’.

The Newcastle container terminal was a key part of Labor’s port planning a decade ago but enthusiasm has waned since then as both Labor and Coalition state governments approved further expansions of the Botany container terminal.

But Mr Cameron has kept pushing the plan, which he says would provide a major boost to Newcastle while freeing valuable portside land at Botany.

Even though Botany and Port Kembla were recently leased for $5 billion by the government, Mr Cameron said his plan could still go ahead.

The vacated Botany land could be used to expand Sydney airport, or the airport itself could be moved entirely to Badgerys Creek, and the two waterfront sites used to ease Sydney’s housing shortage.

He said this week’s announcement of a possible Thames River airport 80km from London showed governments were serious about taking aircraft noise out of big cities.

 Professor Bell said the Sydney airport expansion was probably the most contentious part of Mr Cameron’s proposal.

‘‘Removing containers from the Sydney road network is an unequivocal benefit ... and the development of Newcastle as a maritime container terminal together with a freight rail bypass to a new intermodal terminal at Eastern Creek offers the potential to support this,’’ Professor Bell said.

He said moving freight trains onto a dedicated freight rail bypass would make way for more passenger services.

‘‘I think these and other questions should be explored in a comprehensive land use and transport study for NSW,’’ Professor Bell said.  

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