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The future network

Future Transport Strategy

Planning a more dynamic network

The transport network in NSW is made up of fixed assets and corridors that form the backbone for service provision. The network consists of 185,000 kilometres of road infrastructure and 9,400km of rail infrastructure for public, private, commercial and freight use, and prior to COVID-19 was supporting annually over:

  • 424 million rail trips.
  • 391 million bus trips.
  • 16 million ferry trips. 
  • 480 million tonnes of freight.
  • 11 million light rail trips.
  • 6,040 ship visits.
  • 62,590 regulated intrastate air trips and 2.2 million deregulated intrastate air trips.
  • A substantial number of vehicle trips, including 4.9 billion journeys per year on the Greater Sydney road network (including driver plus passenger and point-to-point total trips and excluding freight).


How has COVID-19 impacted the network?

While the impact of COVID-19 has resulted in changes to mobility patterns, demand pressures on the transport network remain significant, and the State’s population is forecast to continue to grow. 

In August 2020, almost 50 per cent fewer people were working in the Eastern Harbour City than in January 2020, with more people working from home. This resulted in temporary but major shifts to mobility patterns in response to the pandemic. The closure of international borders also had a severe impact on tourism, and contributed to reduced travel movements, particularly in Sydney’s east, but also in the regions. Patronage on NSW Trains’ intercity and regional services was close to 25 per cent lower over the twelve months to June 2020, compared with the year before. While there have been some signs of recovery and increasing travel activity, Greater Sydney public transport use remains 30 per cent below levels in January 2020. 

Travel demand is expected to return to trend in the medium term, however the reduced activity in the short term provides Transport with the opportunity to deliver services in ways that support its customers through the pandemic and into the future, with pop-up cycle ways, lower speed limits, and touchless pedestrian sensors supporting greater walking and cycling and mobility choice.


Planning for the future network

As travel patterns return to normal, congestion on the network will continue to be a challenge, impacting the productivity of the State and the wellbeing of transport customers. Building our way out of congestion is not a sustainable solution. 

Once built, fixed assets are difficult and costly to alter. Large infrastructure projects also have long lead times and can be disruptive to communities during construction. As a result, the infrastructure network has in the past lagged behind the rapidly changing needs of communities.

Planning for a dynamic network that improves customer choices and options is key to the sustainability and resilience to our future network. 

Technological advances such as driverless trains and autonomous vehicles will allow these vehicles to safely operate closer together, increasing capacity on the network, and getting the most out of assets and infrastructure. Technologies available today, such as smart motorway systems and Information and Communication Technology (ICT), can also benefit the existing network by improving incident response and managing growing vehicle volumes and congestion.

Our future response to congestion and performance variability requires agile solutions. Where infrastructure solutions are needed, long development times mean these should be designed with flexibility in mind, to allow for adaptation over time to changing customer needs, safety and other technologies and services.

Planning for the future means preserving suitable options for future uses and travel behaviours. It also means improving the way we integrate land use management, demand for travel and utilisation of all transport assets to optimise safety and performance, and maximise carrying capacity as passenger and freight volumes grow.

Walking and cycling will play a key role in reducing congestion and supporting customer journeys. Transport reacted quickly to COVID-19 to encourage walking and cycling and reduce crowding on the transport network. This included speed limit reductions to improve pedestrian and cycling environments, pop-up cycleways, creating public spaces using road space and touchless pedestrian sensors.

Planning tomorrow’s networks can also be done more effectively, using new sources of data and digital tools. For example, more sophisticated models and ‘digital twins’ – virtual models of the real world – can be used to test plans, designs and ‘what if’ scenarios to optimise outcomes for customers, communities and places. Future Transport introduces an alternative ‘vision and validate’ approach to planning, considering what customers will need and want to experience tomorrow, and enabling an agile and responsive vision-led, place-based planning approach. This approach also considers how the network will be used by different groups, including those with special accessibility needs.

Applying Movement and Place to support successful places

Communities are complex, multi-layered and diverse environments. Transport solutions need to consider how they best serve communities to support successful places. As NSW continues to grow, more people will be utilising our public spaces and transport services. This is particularly relevant for our major towns and cities where the majority of this growth is expected to occur.

Places occur at a range of geographic scales – they can be as large as a whole city or region, through to a small precinct. Our roads and streets are also public spaces and serve many roles and functions to customers and the community. They can move goods and people on a variety of modes and provide spaces for people to enjoy the environment, contribute to the economy and engage with the community.

Movement that is planned, designed, delivered, and managed to support safety and enhance places can make positive contributions to the environmental, social and economic value of those places. In addition, through moving people and goods on the most efficient modes of transport, the transport network assets can be maximised and contribute to enhanced place qualities by reallocating road space.

The concept of ‘Movement and Place’ underpins Future Transport 2056. It is a planning framework that ensures ‘movement’ and ‘place’ are considered together as part of a ‘place-based’ approach to the planning, design, delivery and operation of transport networks. Movement and Place puts our customers and the community at the centre of transport planning and delivery. It offers a common language and core process of collaboration to support meaningful discussions about how to address our future transport challenges.

Movement and Place supports Transport’s ‘vision and validate’ approach by considering what customers will need and want to experience tomorrow, and enabling agile, responsive vision-led, place-based planning. Vision and validate, partnered with planning for places, takes a collaborative, spatial, long-term approach to develop contextual responses that better meet the needs of local people and their environment in a defined geographic location.

Movement and Place aims to:

  • Support places and local community outcomes.
  • Move people and goods to, through and within places in a way that is safe, sensitive and complementary to the surrounding street environment.
  • Produce more consistent, higher quality outcomes by asking professionals to think differently about their role in creating successful places.

The NSW Movement and Place Framework consists of guidance and a supporting toolkit for those responsible for planning, design, delivery or operation of transport networks, and evaluating transport opportunities for government, as well as overarching governance forums comprised of senior planning and transport executives from across the NSW Government. It has been prepared collaboratively by Transport and the Government Architect NSW, with input from a number of local government representatives and NSW Government agencies such as the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment.

Street environments

Streets and roads can be categorised into the following four broad environments to support the planning process. These help stakeholders and practitioners to understand the characteristics of different streets:

  • Civic spaces are public areas, such as streets, squares and parks at the heart of our communities and have a significant meaning, activity function or built environment. They are often in our major centres, our tourist and leisure destinations, and our community hubs. These spaces are often prioritised for pedestrians.
  • Local streets are the majority of streets within our transport networks and often have important local place qualities. Activity levels are less intense; however, these streets can have significant meaning for local communities.
  • Main streets have both significant movement functions and place qualities. Balancing the functions of these streets is a common challenge.
  • Main roads are routes central to the efficient movement of people and freight. They include motorways, primary freight corridors, major public transport routes, the connected metropolitan bicycle network, and key urban pedestrian corridors. Place activity levels are less intense, however, these roads and routes can have significant meaning to local communities.

Expanding public transport networks

In Greater Sydney, transport networks and public transport services will be enhanced by establishing efficient and reliable corridors:

  • City-shaping corridors – highest speed and capacity corridors providing connections between our cities and centres that shape the decisions of residents and businesses on where to locate – typically mass transit rail services, motorways and highways. 
  • City-serving corridors – higher capacity corridors providing fast, high-frequency and reliable access to cities and centres – typically rapid bus, light rail and ferry services, and main roads.
  • Centre-serving corridors – corridors that support local access and connect people with their nearest centre, or city-shaping or city-serving interchange. They support buses, on-demand, walking and cycling and enable the delivery of goods. 
  • Outer metro and regional corridors – connecting Greater Sydney with outer metropolitan areas and regional NSW.

In regional and outer metropolitan NSW, the transport network will enable seamless, safe and affordable inter- and intra-regional and cross-border travel. The emphasis for the future regional network will be creating an equitable transport system that provides greater coverage across NSW and gives customers more travel options, for both local and longer distance trips. This includes day-return regional centre connectivity for an expanded geographical catchment and same-day connectivity to global gateway cities or capital cities for all locations in NSW, either directly by air or rail services, or indirectly by bus, coach, air or rail. This will reduce isolation and increase the liveability of regional centres and towns by providing regional customers with the option to undertake employment, education, leisure and health activities locally.

In focus

Planning for the future network through corridor preservation

In early 2014, Western Sydney corridors were identified across the Western Parkland City to support the new economic and social opportunities for the Western Sydney International (Nancy-Bird Walton) Airport, Aerotropolis and surrounding employment lands along with Sydney’s south-west and north-west priority growth areas. 

The NSW Government announced and subsequently gazetted in June 2020, the following Western Sydney future transport corridors:

  • North South Rail Line – providing for a passenger rail connecting St Marys and Macarthur via Western Sydney Airport, Oran Park and Narellan. In April 2020, the NSW Government announced the corridor between St Marys and the Western Sydney Airport will be used for the Sydney Metro – Western Sydney Airport Line.
  • South West Rail Link Extension – providing for passenger rail connecting Leppington Station and the Aerotropolis for connections to the North South Rail Line corridor.
  • Western Sydney Freight Line (stage 1) – providing for a dedicated freight rail connection to the future Outer Sydney Orbital near Luddenham. An Intermodal Terminal (IMT) site has also been confirmed for the Mamre Road precinct in Western Sydney, which will effectively leverage the surrounding industrial development in the area and the dedicated freight line.

Preserving these transport corridors now ensures future transport links can be provided for growing communities. It also gives certainty to residents in the Western Parkland City that future infrastructure and place making is being thoughtfully considered as the region continues to grow.

More information about future transport corridors is available at future transport corridors.

Integrating walking and cycling networks

Walking and cycling have significant benefits for customers and the wider city. As well as supporting active and healthy lifestyles that prevent chronic illnesses, walking and cycling are efficient and community-centred ways to travel that can extend public transport catchments, reduce congestion, and lower carbon emissions and air pollutants, while being affordable and accessible. 

We are already working with local governments and other stakeholders to develop a connected metropolitan bicycle network, which will provide a safe, connected cycling network and grow the cycling mode share in the Greater Sydney area from 1 per cent in 2016 to 5 per cent in 2056. This network is also a step towards creating around 6,000 kilometres of cycling routes across Greater Sydney, Newcastle, Gosford and Wollongong, with a mix of cycleway types appropriate to the location, including protected cycleways, shared paths, and bicycle boulevards (low-speed, local-traffic only local streets that prioritise bicycle access). 

A safe, connected connected metropolitan bicycle network could also act as a broader ‘micromobility lane’ to enable and support emerging and future forms of approved micromobility devices that travel at speeds of up to 25 kilometres an hour, such as e-bikes and e-scooters. 

For regional areas, the development of infrastructure for cycling tourism, such as safe networks in regional towns, rail trails and coastal routes, will present ‘transport as tourism’ opportunities that attract visitors to towns and villages, bringing job opportunities and economic benefits. 

Walking and cycling around and between centres will be supported by the establishment of a ‘green grid’ – a connection of green corridors and spaces to support compact development across the city and promote a more resilient urban environment. Transport for NSW has produced a guide on integrating green infrastructure that helps identify opportunities for green space during planning and design of assets and promotes green infrastructure at interchanges. 

Planning for future walking and cycling networks

Transport for NSW has reshaped its Walking and Cycling Program towards the delivery of walking and cycling outcomes across the whole State. The key objectives of the 2020/21 Walking and Cycling Program are to:

  • Ensure walking and cycling are the most convenient option for short trips to key destinations and within centres.
  • Reduce congestion on our roads and public transport networks by delivering projects that encourage a shift to walking and cycling.
  • Enable efficient, safe and reliable journey times by prioritising infrastructure that supports pedestrian or cycling movement on certain corridors, consistent with the Movement and Place Framework.
  • Deliver projects that make walking and cycling safe, comfortable and convenient transport modes that are accessible to a wide range of users.
  • Enable positive health, wellbeing, social and environmental outcomes.

Further information on the Walking and Cycling Program.


Walking and cycling design principles

Transport delivers its walking and cycling network with clear design principles that prioritise customer outcomes and integration with the existing network.

Transport encourages walking through compact, dense, mixed-use areas that are safe, pleasant and interesting, with appropriate pedestrian infrastructure, well-designed public spaces, and access to green space and public transport.

Transport aims to support a culture of walking by considering the variety, richness, vitality and vibrancy of the place, including the sense of place and accessibility to public transport and micromobility. 

For cycling, Transport’s cycleway design toolbox provides guidance on best practice infrastructure outcomes. It reflects design principles that ensure the cycling network is safe, coherent, attractive and comfortable, and considers not only traffic speed and volume, and pedestrian volume, but also the movement and place classification of the street environment. 

Six principles for Future Transport

The Future Transport 2056 Strategy is focused on six key principles for the future of mobility in the state, which together aim to positively impact the economy, communities and environment of NSW.

Read more