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Regional and outer metropolitan network

Future Transport Strategy

Investing in the network

The 16 Regional Cities program

The NSW Government has a multimodal services planning program, committed to improving bus services in regional cities by making improvements to routes, timetables and the customer experience. The 16 Regional Cities program aims to identify gaps and opportunities with current transport services, deliver improvements to better meet customer needs, and increase patronage and mode share through the provision of bus services that deliver customers to health and education, as well as provide trips to and from work, and support social access, amenity and the local economy. 

Service corridors will be straighter, more direct and efficient. Designed around the spoke, hub and corridor, these bus services may require increased interchange but will include better connections and shorter wait times. 

The Program is being delivered in three phases. The first phase provided a holistic network change to services in Tweed Heads and Wagga Wagga (delivered as early pilot projects in December 2019 and March 2020). The second phase delivered over 813 top priority services across all cities between July and November 2020 taking the total number of new services delivered by the program in its first year to 1,538. The final phase is the development of holistic network plans for the remaining 14 Cities. Planning has been completed for Bathurst and Orange and has commenced in Nowra Bomaderry. 

Improving regional and outer metropolitan public transport networks

Regional and outer metropolitan NSW has a multimodal public transport network, including bus, rail, light rail, coach and on demand. Access to the public transport network is provided through road, walking and cycling connections that together make up the end-to-end journey for customers. Many regional and outer metropolitan services are provided by bus and coach, however services will continue to expand across modes.

Future Transport identifies a strategic commitment to Greater Newcastle, Central Coast and Wollongong with a rapid bus package and an extension to Newcastle Light Rail.

In Greater Newcastle, Transport for NSW confirmed the preferred extension to Newcastle Light Rail as Newcastle Interchange to John Hunter Hospital via Broadmeadow, recognising that further detailed investigations are required. The strategic need for rapid bus services on priority corridors will be investigated, including Broadmeadow to John Hunter Hospital in support of a future light rail extension, as well to Charlestown, Wallsend, Mayfield and the University of Newcastle.

On the Central Coast and Wollongong, Transport for NSW will investigate rapid buses to connect customers to rail services and key shopping, health and education facilities.

A Bus Headstart Program will be developed for Greater Newcastle, Central Coast and Wollongong, to identify additional bus services to encourage early public transport use between new growth areas and their nearest strategic centres and transport hubs, to expand 30-minute catchments. 

On the North Coast, Transport for NSW has initiated strategic planning to extend the Gold Coast light rail to Tweed Heads, with a multimodal corridor investigation commencing in late 2020. The investigation of a light rail connection from Queanbeyan to the Canberra light rail network was identified in Future Transport for investigation within the zero- to 10-year timeframe.

For outer regional and very remote areas, Transport is continuing to investigate opportunities to keep delivering transport services. Transport has recently extended its coach and bus trial in Broken Hill, providing improved coach services from Broken Hill to Mildura and Adelaide.

Transport is also currently investigating fast rail connections across four corridors, including to Port Macquarie, Canberra, Nowra and the central west. The vision for the fast rail network is to support growth in NSW’s regions, generating job opportunities and attract skilled workers. This will provide more choice for people to live and work in regional NSW, with improved connectivity between regional centres, and from cities and international gateways.

Transport mode options will increase in the future, with services such as mobility as a service, carsharing, ridesharing, on-demand services, and connected and automated shuttle services emerging.
On demand provides more personalised, end-to-end journeys by connecting smaller towns and villages to larger centres and cities, providing efficient transport to areas that traditionally have had few or no services. On demand is also replacing fixed-route buses in some regional centres to deliver better value-for-money services and increasing public transport patronage. 

On demand services began in Moree in 2018, with a twice a day, daily route service. This allows customers to be picked up at or near their home and dropped off at a desired destination within Moree. Other regional and outer metropolitan locations with on-demand services include trials in Coffs Harbour, Northern Rivers, Albury, Burrumbuttock, Walla Walla and Jindera, and from Mudgee to Dubbo.

Walking and cycling networks in regional and outer metropolitan NSW

A key to supporting the growth and vibrancy of our regional cities, centres and towns through transport is making them places where people want to walk and cycle.

Future Transport 2056 aims to capitalise on the opportunity to increase the use of public transport and walking and cycling in regional NSW for all trips, improving levels of social inclusion and bringing flow on health benefits. Our aspiration over the next 10 years is to increase public transport and walking and cycling across regional NSW – with the target for walking to increase from 4% to 8%, and cycling from 2% to 5% of all trips.

To support the achievement of these targets, transport is working with local communities and local government areas to design places that incorporate walking and cycling within the transport network. This includes ensuring walking and cycling are the most convenient option for short trips to key destinations and within centres, enabling efficient, safe, and reliable journey times by prioritising infrastructure that supports pedestrian or cycling movements, consistent with the movement and place framework. 

Walking and cycling initiatives in regional and outer metropolitan NSW include the development of rail trails across regional NSW, including the Rosewood to Tumbarumba pilot and the Northern Rivers rail trail, which is in the early stages of planning and repurposing of the rail corridor. Transport is also investigating regional cycling networks, including for tourism, connected bicycle networks and supporting strategic centres, and is currently working with Newcastle, Lake Macquarie, and the Lower Hunter to investigate a principal bike network. Cycleways are also being delivered, including at Goulburn and Wollongong, as part of Transport’s response to COVID-19 to ensure people have a safe alternative to catching public transport or driving.

In focus:

Completing the cycleway and shared path network in Wagga Wagga

The NSW Government is funding the delivery of stage 1 of Wagga Wagga City Council’s Active Transport Plan which includes a 45-kilometre cycleway and shared pedestrian path network. The cycleway and shared path network will link residential areas with key destinations such as the Central Business District and Charles Sturt University campus. These links will assist in reaching Wagga Wagga’s target of 5% mode shift towards cycling by 2041.

Stage 1 of the cycleway is expected to be completed by mid-2021.
Stage 2, which will provide further connectivity to Bomen Estate and other suburbs of Wagga Wagga, is currently under investigation.

Technology initiatives in regional and outer metropolitan NSW

Future Transport 2056 commits to extend the trials and testing of connected and automated vehicles (CAVs) in regional areas of NSW. We have partnered with industry, researchers, local governments and businesses on trials in Armidale and Coffs Harbour.

Road testing will soon commence for the world’s first automated ute. A ‘smart ute’, retrofitted with automated technology will be trialled between Dubbo CBD, Dubbo Regional Airport and Taronga Western Plains Zoo. The trial will also explore the capability of automated vehicles to detect and react to the unpredictable movements of kangaroos on the road.

Find out more about regional CAV trials. 

The Transport Connected Bus (TCB) Program is delivering state-of-the-art vehicle tracking and automatic passenger counting technology across the rural and regional NSW bus network. This provides customers the information they need to make more informed travel choices via TfNSW digital customer channels and third-party public transport apps. It is also providing TfNSW and regional bus operators access to more accurate data and tools to improve services and keep buses running on time.

Phase 1 of the program went live in July 2020, delivering around 300 connected buses for over 430 regular and school services across Bega, Dubbo and Coffs Harbour. Phase two has commenced and will see the Program rolled out to around 1,000 vehicles covering approximately 1,500 services across an additional 14 regional cities consisting of Albury, Armidale, Bathurst, Bomaderry-Nowra, Grafton, Griffith, Lismore, Orange, Parkes, Port Macquarie, Queanbeyan, Tamworth, Tweed Heads, and Wagga Wagga.

Find out more about the Transport Connected Bus Program.


Freight networks connecting regional and outer metropolitan NSW

Economic growth in regional NSW relies on the movement of goods through efficient and effective transport networks. The ability of NSW producers to move agricultural and industrial products and natural resources to domestic and export markets in a timely and efficient manner directly impacts on productivity and competitiveness, and is a major factor driving economic performance in regional NSW.

Regional NSW’s freight task is forecast to grow by around 12 per cent by 2036, from 255 million to 286 million tonnes. In regional NSW, the dominant commodities are coal, grain and steel, and forestry and other agricultural produce. The forecast growth in the freight task will require a higher capacity and efficient freight network.

Heavy vehicles will have a significant ongoing role in delivering the growing freight task. One way of reducing overall truck movements is to increase the volume of freight carried per trip. The implementation of the NSW Heavy Vehicle Access Policy Framework (HVAPF), which outlines a strategic approach to heavy vehicle access in NSW for both state and council roads, will aim to achieve safe and efficient movement of road freight in NSW now and into the future.

The framework will establish networks for modern high-productivity vehicles (HPVs) - these are vehicles that can carry more payload than a B-double, such as Performance Based Standards (PBS) vehicles, road trains, and other restricted access vehicles including those operating at higher mass limits.

In regional NSW, the government will continue regulatory reforms to ensure the efficient working of supply chains from farms, mines and processing plants to trading ports and domestic markets; and plan and prioritise key infrastructure upgrades, including access to the ‘last mile’ of local road and bridge networks for heavy vehicles.

Inland Rail will provide an enhanced link to enable freight travelling from Melbourne to Brisbane to bypass the busy Sydney metropolitan rail network and travel through regional NSW. It will open up new routes and increase the demand for rail freight paths on a range of corridors.

Ports play a significant role in the NSW freight task, with four commercial ports across regional and outer metropolitan NSW: Newcastle, Port Kembla, Eden and Yamba. 

Staged investments that develop economic centres and corridors in regional and outer metropolitan NSW

The NSW Government is developing a long-term vision for a safe and productive regional transport network that delivers the ‘hub and spoke’ model. This long-term vision will guide investments in rail upgrades, road upgrades and bypasses, to improve liveability and road safety, and expand the regional walking, cycling and public transport networks.

The recent investments in north-south highway connections (Pacific and Hume Highways, as well as Princes and Newell Highway upgrades now underway) have created significant benefits for the State in terms of safety, travel-time savings and productivity. This is complemented by Inland Rail, which will create a strong north-south freight link between Melbourne and Brisbane through the heart of the regional and outer metropolitan NSW. 

A focus on east-west connectivity is now essential to create a truly connected transport network, with initiatives for investigation including the Oxley Highway, Waterfall Way corridor, Bruxner Highway, Sturt Highway, Great Western Highway and Gwydir Highway improvements; each providing improved movement, road safety and/or travel time and reliability on key east-west corridors.

Investigations are also underway into a NSW Fast Rail network, which will catalyse regional growth through improved connectivity. Four corridors are being investigated for the future Fast Rail network – a northern corridor, a western corridor, a southern inland corridor, and a southern coastal corridor.

There is an increasing need for regional and outer metropolitan transport network planning to consider resilience, ensuring the safety and accessibility of the transport network for all of our customers. A resilient transport network is based on the principles of knowing the risks to the network, planning for disruption and taking action to minimise risk and improve recovery. For example, ensuring multiple access points for towns and regional centres, structuring service contracts to enable dynamic responses to any events and replacing wooden culverts with fire resistant materials.

Following the 2019/20 bushfires, Transport has considered additional measures to be in place for the future which will:

  • Improve evacuation routes and support access for emergency services
  • Improve the resilience of strategic transport corridors so that operations can return as quickly as possible.

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