CBA commits $240 million to Newcastle Airport, amid calls for a fast train

A proposed international terminal at Newcastle Airport has been met with scepticism by aviation experts, with questions raised over the feasibility of the plan.

The Commonwealth Bank is providing finance to the amount of $240 million to develop the international terminal, which is forecast to provide for 2.3 million passengers a year by 2028.

The refit would include commercial A-grade office and industrial facilities designed to attract business travellers, an airport spokesperson said.

Newcastle Airport is a crucial component of the regional economy, CBA’s regional and agribusiness executive Paul Fowler said.

“The airport’s expansion and modernisation will significantly increase its capacity and improve connectivity across Newcastle, the Hunter Valley and the Central Coast, driving new business and employment opportunities that add to the region’s prosperity,” Mr Fowler said.

Newcastle Airport is the second busiest airport in New South Wales, generating about $1.2 billion annually.

The airport services 12 domestic routes with six domestic airlines and caters to about 1.3 million passengers annually.

The expansion project will further boost the economy and support the region’s growth, Newcastle Airport CEO Dr Peter Cock said.

“Driving greater economic and social benefits by broadening our domestic and international destinations and contributing to Newcastle’s transformation from a major regional hub into an international destination and a significant second international gateway to NSW, is key to our purpose,” he said.

A solar-powered car park would power more than 30 per cent of the airport, Dr Cock said, and the expansions were designed to operate with a five-star Green Star rating accreditation, ensuring sustainable growth.

Is it feasible?

However, Professor Rico Merkert, chair in transport and supply chain management at the University of Sydney, told TND he had doubts about the venture, questioning whether the 2028 forecast was attainable.

Professor Merkert said investing in faster rail between Sydney and Newcastle would be a better way to reduce carbon emissions and provide travellers with a more convenient and cost-effective option.

“We see every airport needs refurbishment, but whether it needs $240 million? I’m not so sure about whether the forecast of 2.3 million passengers a year by 2028 is as realistic,” he said.

“I don’t really think that there’s too much of a business traveller market there, especially not international.”

Professor Merkert said the airport’s primary focus should be attracting low-cost carriers and domestic tourism.

He questioned the airport’s claim that the expansions would be sustainable: “If you have more aircraft coming in and flying out, that obviously will increase the emissions quite substantially.”

Reducing reliance on cars and providing more public transport from the airport would be ideal, he said.

Despite these concerns, Commonwealth Bank’s executive manager for the region Paul Cragg believes the partnership will help support the region’s diverse sectors, including tourism, defence, manufacturing, health, energy, agriculture, education, property and transport.

“We’re looking forward to helping more businesses in Newcastle and beyond take advantage of new possibilities as the economy transitions,” Mr Cragg said.

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