The Future Network

The infrastructure network – the physical corridors, road and rail infrastructure, and surrounding land uses – are the backbone upon which technology and services operate.

To meet future challenges, network development must be flexible and embed future optionality, maximise capacity and re-use of assets, and support innovative service and technology provision.

This chapter looks at network issues that we will need to address as part of Future Transport for the improvement, use and management of the network over the next 40 years.

These include:

  • Planning tomorrow’s network
  • Promoting sustainable development and healthy lifestyles
  • Developing the digital network
  • A safely operated network
  • Optimising the network and better using existing infrastructure
  • Growing the Greater Sydney and regional NSW networks to deliver our vision for places

Planning tomorrow's networks

Building our way out of congestion is not the only solution – network optimisation through technology and more responsive service can help tackle congestion more flexibly in the short term

Planning a more dynamic network

The infrastructure network in NSW is made up of fixed assets and corridors that form the backbone for service provision. The network consists of over 185,000 kilometres of road infrastructure for private, commercial and freight use and annually supports:

  • 385 million rail trips
  • 315 million bus trips
  • 16 million ferry trips
  • 10 million light rail trips each year

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

While the course or footprint of a corridor is fixed, its capacity is not. Different modes of transport have different carrying capacities when using equivalent ‘space’. For example, public transport on roads uses one-twentieth of the road space of car travel.

Planning for the future means preserving suitable options for future uses and travel behaviours. It also means better management and utilisation of all transport assets to optimise performance and maximise carrying capacity, as passenger and freight traffic volumes grow.

Technological advances such as driverless trains and road vehicles will allow these vehicles to operate closer together increasing capacity on the network. Technologies available today, such as Smart motorway systems and ICT, can also benefit the existing network by improving incident response and congestion outcomes and managing growing car volumes.

These more agile solutions should be our first response to congestion and performance variability.

The Sydney Harbour Bridge was built in 1932 to carry 11,000 vehicles a day - it now carries 160,000

Figure 37 Sydney Harbour Bridge

Applying Movement and Place principles to create successful places

The success of our cities and regional towns depends on our network supporting attractive and healthy places

The Movement and Place Framework underpins Future Transport and aims to allocate road space in a way that improves the liveability of places. This framework is an integrated land use and transport planning tool that sets customer focused outcomes and delivers wider benefits for the health and wellbeing of the community.

Some of the most challenging decisions we face in managing transport arise when trying to balance different uses of the road network. Historically, many of our most vibrant eating and shopping districts grew alongside our busiest road corridors that today suffer acute congestion during peak periods.

By engaging across government with those bodies responsible for transport, land use and roads in NSW, desired street environments can be agreed upon and the Movement and Place Framework can become a common platform for road planning, based on an integrated view of the strategic significance of:

  • Roads and streets in their role in moving people and goods
  • Land use adjacent to roads and streets

This more collaborative and integrated approach, will enable greater transparency, collaboration and a tool to provide better clarity to communities and the public about how the NSW Government plans, designs and operates the road network.

The guiding principles within the framework acknowledge that the needs and expectations of transport customers and communities change for different street environments. Similarly, there is the need to prioritise different customer groups, depending which street environment they are travelling in:

  • Places for people are the heart of communities and are more people orientated street environments. To support Places for People, the Movement and Place Framework identifies the need to better prioritise public transport, pedestrians, cycle and freight access whilst limiting through traffic with no destination in the centre.
  • Local Streets set the frame for our communities, amenity and the need for local access as a priority. The Movement and Place Framework identifies the need for local streets that are safe environments, encouraging road users to modify behaviours to respect one another and acknowledge the need to share road space. Local Streets are supported by lower vehicle speeds that better align with the need to prioritise walking and cycling within local communities.
  • Vibrant Streets are some of the most active areas in our cities with activity and movement at all hours of the day. The need to balance high pedestrian activity and densities, attracted by significant commercial, tourism, leisure and entertainment venues, along with the need to move high numbers of people and goods is challenging for both Local and State Government. Time of a day management and achieving a better balance between movement and place needs are facilitated through the Movement and Place Framework.
  • Movement Corridors and Motorways are highly important for the movement of people and goods with little interaction with adjacent land use, as such there is a low priority and need for provision for pedestrians or access to land use. However, some Movement Corridors pass through local centres and in these cases provision for place, supporting freight, public transport and active transport will support the centre or high streets’ role in providing for the local community.

Broader, long-term network planning and investment in new city shaping infrastructure is sometimes required to reduce the need for movement through important centres to improve movement within centres, create great places and deliver community outcomes.

The application of the Movement and Place framework also has road safety benefits. Areas that are considered Places for People will need lower speed limits, set in accordance with the NSW Speed Zoning Guidelines and international best practice. Lower speeds in Place for People environments will ensure the safety of road users, particularly vulnerable users such as pedestrians and cyclists. This will continue to create better and safer street environments in addition to programs under the NSW Road Safety Plan 2021 such as the extension of 40km/h limits in high pedestrian activity areas.

Next steps for implementing the Movement and Place framework

Encouraging more customers to use active and public transport

Moving more people by active and public transport has benefits for all

Initiatives to improve service levels and increase patronage on public transport will be delivered through the investments outlined in both the Greater Sydney and regional NSW Services and Infrastructure plans.

Expanding the public transport networks

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

  • City-shaping corridors – major trunk road and public transport corridors providing higher speed and volume links between cities and centres that shape locational decisions of residents and businesses
  • City-serving corridors – higher density corridors concentrated within ~10km of metropolitan centres providing high frequency access to metropolitan cities/centres with more frequent stopping patterns
  • Centre-serving corridors – local corridors that support, buses, walking and cycling, to connect people with their nearest centre and transport node
  • Outer metro and regional services – connecting Greater Sydney with outer metropolitan areas and regional NSW

In regional NSW, the transport network will enable seamless and affordable inter-regional and cross-border travel. The emphasis for the future Regional network will be creating a transport system that provides greater coverage across NSW including 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.

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.

Transport for NSW has produced a guide on integrating green infrastructure which helps identify opportunities for green space during planning and design of assets and promote green infrastructure at interchanges. Coordinated investment to connect green corridors and spaces will support compact development across the city and promote a more resilient urban environment. This ‘green grid’ will support walking and cycling around and between centres and thereby help to reduce obesity and inactivity.

Future directions to investigate

The NSW transport network will support healthy communities and encourage active transport like walking and cycling.

  • Provide safe, quick and convenient public transport services that offer journey times competitive with private cars
  • Incorporate multimodal network improvements and place based planning in the design of all major transport projects
  • Plan centres with a greater focus on walking and cycling as well as public transport priority options.
  • Complete walking and cycling networks to and within centres and invest in safe, direct and continuous green corridor connections
  • Continue rolling out Sydney’s Cycling Future program which provides secure bike storage across the network at selected railway stations
  • Encourage workforce planning that gives employees an option to work near home and the ability to commute using active transport

Figure 39 Artist's impression of George Street, Sydney

Developing the digital network

Digital infrastructure will overlay the physical network and reduce network complexity

Smart devices and intelligent vehicles will need a smarter network

Transport services in the future will require an extensive and increasingly sophisticated technology-enabled network. This will be particularly important for city shaping corridors, including motorways, where ‘smart’ technology will be built into the network.

The Transport Management Centre is currently developing a system under the Intelligent Congestion Management Program that will use the most up to date and predictive data to monitor and manage performance in real time across all modes and networks. The NSW Government is investing $470 million to upgrade the M4 to a ‘smart’ motorway. In the future, all motorways in NSW will be ‘smart.’

Freight customers will also harness data and analytics to improve efficiency and competitiveness. Load sharing applications and platforms will combine freight loads from different network users to maximise capacity and utilisation of each vehicle.

Increasing automation technology at delivery centres and around intermodal terminals will help freight customers reduce dwell times in the supply chain. As technologies evolve, the freight industry will also be able to re-organise their businesses to provide customers quicker and more convenient deliveries matched to their individual needs. 

Rapid technological innovation and big data has the potential to deliver much broader digital applications for customers. New developments in machine learning and artificial intelligence are likely to emerge in the near term and NSW will need to be ready to incubate new applications, trial new uses and become early adopters of technology.

Embedding sensors and intelligent transport systems technologies across key assets such as bridges, cameras, car parks, streets, traffic lights and toll booths, will generate enormous volumes of new data on road conditions and traffic patterns. This information will be conveyed in real time to serve the customer and help personalise their journey.

Future directions to investigate

NSW will ensure the digital network is fit for purpose and has the capacity to support future technologies.

  • Embed flexibility and optionality into network design to support changes in technology systems
  • Work with industry partners and tech companies to incubate and trial new technologies
  • Identify new ways for intelligent systems to bring together services and assets on the network to deliver better connections and integration between services
  • Support the development, prototyping and deployment of “smart networks” including a road network that connects to smart vehicles
  • Apply the NSW Government’s Digital Strategy.

A safely operated network

Our highest priority is getting our customers home safely

Technology is critical for working towards a zero trauma network

As part of the NSW Road Safety Plan 2021, NSW has set a target of zero trauma on the transport system by 2056, committing to significant reductions in absolute and per capita rates of trauma across road, rail, waterway and air transport infrastructure and service delivery.

Our commitment to working toward zero trauma starts with a target to reduce fatalities on our roads by at least 30 per cent on 2008-2010 levels by 2021, which is a State Priority.

To work Towards Zero, we will apply the Safe Systems approach which involves designing a transport system integrated with human behaviour to ensure users are not harmed. It involves all elements of the system (infrastructure, vehicles, speeds and user behaviour) working together and interacting with the system itself to ensure safety. It also requires the right mix of conditions in place to keep different users safe within the system – for example, pedestrian safety measures in shared use areas or car and truck safety treatments on movement corridors.

There are several guiding principles to the Safe Systems approach:

  • All parts of the system must be strengthened, so if one part fails, transport users are still protected  
  • The transport system must be designed to account for human error
  • The human body has limited ability to tolerate crash forces
  • Transport planners, designers, and users must all contribute to safe networks – there must be shared responsibility for preventing crashes.

A safe transport system has important benefits to the overall performance of the transport system. In particular, it minimises disruptions caused by incidents, improves the wellbeing of the broader community and protects people who operate and maintain services.

In addition, safety by design ensures the network is resilient to adverse or significant weather events, and can safely support optimal speeds.

Safety is one of the key factors that can influence technology take up. In terms of safety, technology has the potential to be highly impactful, through measures such as advanced safety systems, removal of trackside equipment, and use of equipment that uses ‘self-healing’ materials such as polymers and composites.  

A number of individual automated vehicle safety technologies are already available or being developed that can deliver safety benefits in the immediate term. These technologies include electronic stability control, intelligent speed adaptation, adaptive cruise control, autonomous emergency braking, collision avoidance and hazard protection systems (including forward collision and lane departure warning), road signage detection, vehicle-to-infrastructure communication, post-crash notification systems, fatigue detection, and blind spot monitoring.

Technology will also play an increasing role in network security, particularly with regards to, data authentication within the safety system and best-practice frameworks to better predict and manage tension across the network.

It will be particularly important to implement safety technology and safe system principles in regional NSW, which accounts for 40 per cent of the state’s population, but experiences two-thirds of fatalities each year. A person is around four times more likely to lose their life on a country road than on a metropolitan road.

Transport for NSW works nationally and internationally to ensure that vehicle safety technologies are taken up as quickly as possible to improve outcomes for customers. World class products are sourced against industry benchmarks so as to obtain best practice. Consequently, industry is becoming more willing to not only utilise these technologies but also to be able to innovate towards safe and efficient outcomes.

Transport for NSW’s Centre for Road Safety is developing and researching emerging road safety technologies, including intelligent safety systems such as GPS, wireless communications and video detection systems. Current initiatives include:

  • The Speed Adviser which is a smartphone app designed to reduce speeding and save lives by providing free access to accurate speed zone information and warnings covering the NSW road network.
  • The naturalistic driving study which gathers data from cameras and sensors in about 360 vehicles to help us develop new and innovative ways to prevent crashes on our roads.
  • The FleetCAT trial which involves 35 vehicles in the NSW state fleet to assess the safety benefits of collision avoidance technology systems.

The Centre for Road Safety also assesses ideas from the public for new road safety concepts and evaluates the potential of safety systems to reduce road trauma, including:

Future directions to investigate

By 2056, technology and safety will be in-built to all networks, delivering zero trauma on all parts of the transport system.

  • Deliver a 30 per cent reduction in road fatalities or serious injuries by 2021
  • Conduct Safe System assessments and incorporate safety measures at the design and construction stages of all new and repurposed transport assets and infrastructure
  • Ensure infrastructure supports fully automated vehicles on high volume and dedicated freight and city shaping corridors, including connected vehicle technology options to support safe travel for all user groups.
  • Incorporate safety technologies on shared road space and interchanges for pedestrians and cyclists, and on waterways
  • Prioritise separation of road users to reduce risk, including median barrier separation on all key road corridors with high traffic volumes
  • Continue leading safety improvements on the network through the NSW Government’s fleet purchasing policy that requires all vehicles to have a 5-star Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) rating
  • Ensure all new passenger vehicles are fitted with highly automated or fully automated systems
  • Ensure all new roads are designed to 4 or 5 star standard, and that investment is prioritised to achieve majority of customer travel on 5 star roads
  • Continue to have an evolving and robust research program that includes research into new vehicle technologies, behavioural and policy reform, trials of road and roadside safety products and program evaluation and safe system analysis.
  • Continue providing education campaigns for:
    • Drivers using our roads that target behaviours such as speeding, drink and drug driving, driver distraction and mobile phone use and managing fatigue, as well as programs for new and older drivers;
    • People on our waterways that encourage safe behaviours such as the wearing of a lifejacket and the proper use of personal watercraft;
    • Public transport users that target behaviours around rail corridors and level crossings, school student travel, safe travel for older or less mobile passengers and travel training across the network; and

Cyclists and pedestrians that encourage behaviours such as wearing helmets when cycling and safely crossing roads, especially for children and families.

Figure 42 Road trauma on metropolitan and country roads

For more information see the NSW Road Safety Strategy

Optimising the network and better using existing infrastructure

Congestion and under-use: two symptoms of the same problem

A major focus when planning the network is mitigating the costs and impacts of congestion. Congestion and crowding occur when demand for travel reaches or exceeds capacity, resulting in increased travel times, reduced reliability and a poorer customer experience.

While congestion is a major driver of new investment particularly in metropolitan areas, its concentration in relatively short peak periods conceals significant capacity and underuse in off-peak hours, or in the counter-peak direction. 

The NSW Government is currently addressing congestion through a number of programs:

  • Travel Choices – a tool to help people avoid delays when navigating the network by choosing the most efficient transport modes, routes and travel times
  • The Intelligent Congestion Management Program – a program that integrates business processes and systems that support data gathering, analysis, decision support and information exchange around congestion management
  • Easing Sydney’s Congestion Program – a program that incorporates several initiatives relating to bus priority, pinch points, ‘smart motorways’ and clearways

While congestion is an issue in some regional areas, network design needs to focus more on connectivity. Historically, network connections have been focused on access to capital cities, an approach which does not necessarily reflect the places people in the regions want to go to.

Planning for regional NSW over the next 40 years will be delivered under a ‘hub and spoke’ network model. This model will connect regional towns and villages to their nearest regional centre, providing services and ease of access to other destinations.

Planning the freight network will also be critical to regional NSW, where there are already a number of nationally significant transport corridors, in particular the Hume, Newell and Pacific Highways. Collaborative planning will also be done with the Federal Government on the new Inland Rail, which will support intermodal hubs in regional NSW.

Access to the trade gateways of Newcastle Port and Port Kembla from inland NSW will continue to be important for the next 40 years as will inland connectivity to the future international airport in Western Sydney.

Future directions to investigate

NSW will optimise the use of the current network in Sydney and regional NSW, and invest in projects that improve connectivity and tackle congestion.

  • Dynamic, real time management of the network to improve performance and reduce the impact of incidents, events and planned maintenance
  • Design a ‘hub and spoke’ network that better serves regional communities
  • Plan and manage transport networks for the best use and optimum movement of people and goods along and across transport corridors and within precincts, whilst creating better places and amenity for communities
  • Progressively review roads and road space allocated on best use to achieve better customer outcomes and better places
  • Encourage customers to use the transport system differently by shifting to walking, cycling or public transport and traveling outside the peaks to reduce congestion and channel demand where there is capacity
  • Continue to manage private vehicle congestion in high demand areas through the Parking Space Levy
  • Reserve corridors for future network development.

Figure 43 Weekday peaks

A flexible, agile investment approach

Our staged investment approach is designed to be flexible, responding to change and uncertainty.

The timeframes are indicative, based on preliminary evidence, of when potentially these initiatives may be need to be implemented or committed. Capital constraints will mean that initiatives will need to be prioritised and all may not be able to be delivered within indicative timeframes.

Further investigation of all initiatives in the Strategy and Plans will be undertaken within the next 10 years to ensure any major impacts in growth patterns or use are considered.

Initiatives have been divided into the following categories:

  1. Committed / funded initiatives (0-10yrs) – initiatives that either have committed funding, are committed/contractually committed, are for immediate detailed planning, or are part of key maintenance, renewal or safety programs. Some initiatives subject to a final business case and funding.
  2. Initiatives for investigation (0-10, 10-20yrs) – intended to be investigated for potential commitment or implementation within the next 20 years. Those listed in 0-10 year horizon will be prioritised for more detailed investigation to determine if they are required in the next decade.
  3. Visionary initiatives (20+ years) – longer term initiatives that may be investigated within the next 10 years, but are unlikely to require implementation within 20 years.

Growing the Greater Sydney Network

The vision for Greater Sydney as a Metropolis of Three Cities, where people can access the majority of jobs and services within 30minutes, will require a sustained and staged investment program to protect corridors and then develop an integrated transport system that includes city-shaping, city-serving, centre serving and strategic freight networks.

The transport networks will need to expand to provide improved access to each metropolitan centre, particularly Greater Parramatta and the metropolitan cluster of centres in the Western Parkland City and safe, reliable movement of freight. These networks will be progressively developed through a range of infrastructure investments that will make key improvements to the city shaping and road networks as well as upgrade local roads, walking and bicycle paths, as detailed in the Greater Sydney Services and Infrastructure Plan.

Current investments are focused on city-shaping and radial connections to centres in the Eastern Harbour City. These support improved public transport, congestion management and urban renewal outcomes, unlocking capacity on existing road and rail corridors and supporting renewal and walkability by drawing traffic away from centres. Long term, mass transit network extension will support densification in the south-east and the Bays Precinct.

The development of the Central River City will require improved 30 minute public and active transport access to Greater Parramatta. To support this, the focus will be on new city shaping connections, particularly from the north and south. A new light rail network for Greater Parramatta will also support local access and urban renewal.

The developing Western Parkland City will require investment in the mass transit network to shape a sustainable urban form and grow jobs, in the longer term, support 30 minute access to centres by public and active transport. To support this, we will investigate a north-south train link through the Western Sydney Airport-Badgerys Creek Aerotropolis and east-west connections to the Central River City, in collaboration with the Commonwealth.

Integration with Gosford and Wollongong as future satellite cities will require improvements to existing connections and, in the longer term, consideration of higher speed rail.

To effect long term change and deliver a financially sustainable network, we need to prioritise our investments. The Greater Sydney Services and Infrastructure Plan includes a number of initiatives for delivery or investigation in the short to medium turn as well as visionary initiatives.

The Greater Sydney City shaping network

The city-shaping network includes higher capacity, high frequency services providing access to metropolitan centres as well as connecting the three cities. The function of this network is to enable people living in any of the three cities to access their nearest metropolitan centre within 30 minutes and to be able to travel efficiently between these metropolitan centres.

Future strategic road network in Greater Sydney

The future strategic road network for Greater Sydney will support key movements by road, including public transport, private vehicles and freight. The strategic freight network will use major city shaping corridors and increasingly rely on dedicated freight rail corridors for movements between ports and intermodal terminals in the Central and Western Cities. The introduction of CAVs and 'smart' infrastructure will increase the efficiency of the road network.

City-serving network in Greater Sydney

The city-serving network will provide high-frequency or turn-up-and-go services within less than10km of the three metropolitan centres. This will support access within some

of the densest land use in Greater Sydney where demand for travel is most concentrated. As these inner urban areas in each of the three cities develop, we will improve priority for on-street public transport services and invest in higher frequency services.

Centre-serving network

The centre-serving network connects local areas with strategic centres. It enables customers living in typically lower density areas across Greater Sydney to access jobs, education and services in strategic centres and to access city-shaping corridors, such as train, metro and high frequency bus services. On-demand transport and walking and cycling will play a greater role in the future centre-serving network to improve convenience, harness innovation and promote healthy lifestyles.

Freight network

The strategic freight network includes the most significant corridors that support the movement of goods. This includes corridors connecting trade gateways, freight precincts and centres across Greater Sydney as well as corridors that connect the region with outer metropolitan areas and regional NSW. Supporting the safe, efficient and reliable movement of goods around Greater Sydney will require a high capacity network for movement between trade gateways and convenient access to service centres.

Growing Greater Sydney’s Bicycle network

More than 11 million weekday car trips in Greater Sydney are less than 10km. Two in five bus trips are less than 5km. These short trips contribute to congestion on already constrained parts of the transport network.

Encouraging cycling could help relieve congestion and could more than double the number of people who can reach our three cities within 30 minutes.

Cycling also has a health payback by preventing chronic disease through increasing physical activity and improved wellbeing. It creates better places, lowers carbon emissions and improves access to public transport services.

In the future, cycling connections will form part of the Principal Bicycle Network, allowing customers to travel between centres across Greater Sydney. The network will also form part of Greater Sydney’s Green Grid - connecting open spaces with centres and residential areas.

Growing the network in regional NSW

Staged investments that develop economic centres and corridors in regional NSW

The Department of Planning and Environment has identified around 20 Regional Cities and over 30 Regional centres in their recently released Regional Plans. Of these regional cities, three Global Gateways have been identified, including Canberra, Greater Newcastle and Gold Coast-Tweed Heads. These Global Gateways serve extended catchments, supporting the surrounding regional cities, centres and villages. Wollongong and Gosford have been nominated as Satellite Cities as the outer metropolitan area grows.

NSW Government will develop a long term vision for regional roads to deliver a safe and productive network that supports the ‘hub and spoke’ model. The long term vision will guide investments in road upgrades and bypasses to improve liveability and road safety, and expand the regional public transport network.

Regional precincts will be first candidates for technology roll out, with a focus on CAV readiness in the first decade. City shaping corridors will be upgraded in stages, with emphasis transitioning from high volume north-south corridors towards improving critical east-west movements. In the medium term, a corridor will be secured for the development of high speed travel on the eastern seaboard.

Road and rail network improvement and development to serve anticipated freight growth and the need for an overflow port once Port Botany reaches capacity.

The regional NSW network – a ‘hub and spoke’ model connecting cities and centres

The future regional transport network will be planned around a ‘hub and spoke’ model within a strategic framework of servicing principles allowing for local adaptation and interpretation. Servicing principles include connectivity, flexibility and efficiency, access and equity, legibility and timeliness, provision of accurate information and safety. The network will support local towns and Regional Cities and Centres and help make them better places to live, visit and do business.