Restrictions on plane movements at Sydney Airport are hurting the national economy and need to be eased immediately, Australia’s peak transport and tourism body says.

The Transport and Tourism Forum on Wednesday renewed its calls for changes to the regulations in a report into the country’s aviation network.

It said ‘artificial and inflexible’ capacity restraints at the nation’s busiest airport were the ‘biggest impediment to efficiency’ and exacerbated delays in Sydney and across the network.

The federal government in 1997 limited the number of runway movements to 80 an hour, preventing airlines playing catch-up if a plane is delayed and the cap has already been hit.

While a new airport in Western Sydney is welcomed by the sector and will boost capacity, it will not be open for another eight years.

‘If Sydney and Australia are to keep pace with the growth in demand for air transport, and if the nation is to handle the surge in international air travellers which it has courted for decades, common-sense reforms are needed as a matter of priority to modernise the operating restrictions imposed on Sydney Airport,’ the report said.

‘This is no longer a Sydney issue. It is national. And it is urgent.’

In 2017, about 43 million trips were made in and out of Sydney Airport – more than a quarter of the national total.

The report recommends replacing the hourly cap with a single cap on scheduled movements while maintaining the overnight curfew on most flights.

It has also suggested provisions for planes to fly outside of curfew hours in instances of major weather disruption, infrastructure failure or significant incidents.

TTF chief executive Margy Osmond said the federal government and Labor opposition needed to ‘take a stand together and commit to these badly needed reforms’.