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Understanding travel behaviour

Greater Newcastle Future Transport Plan

Understanding travel behaviour

To provide appropriate transport services and infrastructure into the future, it is vital to have an understanding of how, where and why people travel to, from and within Greater Newcastle.


Transport network

Figure 16 provides an overview of the key road, rail and cycleway networks in Greater Newcastle.

How and why people in Greater Newcastle travel

Most people travel in Greater Newcastle by private vehicle (over 80 percent of all trips). Public transport use is low. However, there are strong rates of active transport, with more than 13 percent of all trips made by walking or cycling.

Most trips in Greater Newcastle are for discretionary purposes such as shopping, social and recreational trips. These are trips where people can choose the timing and/or destination for their travel. As these trips are generally shorter and within the region, there is an opportunity to support more sustainable travel options for these trips.

Commuting trips occur primarily in the AM and PM peaks. There is an opportunity for these to be provided by public or active transport, rather than private vehicle.

Over half of the trips made by Greater Newcastle’s residents are short journeys under 5km. There is an opportunity for these shorter journeys to be undertaken by walking or cycling.


Key road corridors in Greater Newcastle include the M1 Pacific Motorway, Hunter Expressway, New England Highway, Newcastle Link Road/ Newcastle Road, City Road (Pacific Highway), Charlestown Road /Lookout Road, Lake Road, Main Road, Maitland Road and Industrial Drive. These roads carry the largest volumes of traffic and are important in providing through movements as well as, north-south and east-west connections within Greater Newcastle.

Figure 20 and Figure 21 show road capacity across Greater Newcastle in the AM peaks in 2016 and 2056. Examples of roads currently approaching capacity in the AM peak include Maitland Road (heading towards Newcastle city centre), Cormorant Road (both directions), Newcastle Road (heading east), Toronto Road (heading north) and Lookout Road (heading north).

It is projected that traffic volumes will significantly increase in the next 40 years. Figure 21 shows road capacity in 2056 without any transport improvements, but with increased travel demand. This figure illustrates that without investment and changes to travel behaviour, a significant number of key corridors in the metro core will be approaching capacity. Roads surrounding the strategic centres of Maitland, East Maitland, Metford, Raymond Terrace, Morisset and Cessnock will also be approaching capacity.


Greater Newcastle is serviced by Intercity and NSW TrainLink regional rail services. The two Intercity lines are the Central Coast and Newcastle line (Figure 22), providing connections to the Central Coast and Greater Sydney and the Hunter line (Figure 23), providing connections between Newcastle, Dungog and Scone. Service frequencies range during the day.

Within the Intercity network, Opal data represented in Figure 24 shows that the stations generating the most use are Hamilton (former temporary access point into Newcastle city centre), Morisset, Broadmeadow, Warabrook (University of Newcastle) and Cardiff.

Figure 25 shows travel volumes on the Intercity network in 2016 and 2056. Increased passengers are expected to travel north from Wyee, south from Cardiff and east from Metford in the AM peak.

NSW TrainLink regional services provide connections north to Brisbane via the east coast (Figure 26) and to Armidale and Moree via the Hunter and New England North West regions. There are three services a day travelling north and one a day to Armidale/Moree. These services also provide connections to Greater Sydney.

Patronage data (2014) for NSW TrainLink regional rail services shows that people travelling to Greater Newcastle stations (Fassifern, Broadmeadow and Maitland) on the northern corridor (services between Sydney and Brisbane), are primarily travelling from Sydney (Sydney Central, Strathfield and Hornsby), Casino (connecting point for coach services on North Coast), Coffs Harbour, Wauchope (connection to Port Macquarie) and Taree. People travelling from Greater Newcastle stations on this corridor primarily travel to Sydney (Sydney Central, Strathfield and Hornsby), Casino, Taree, Coffs Harbour and Brisbane.

For the north west corridor (services between Sydney and Armidale/Moree), patronage data (2014) for NSW TrainLink regional rail services shows people travelling to Greater Newcastle stations (Fassifern, Broadmeadow and Maitland) primarily from Sydney (Sydney Central, Strathfield and Hornsby), Tamworth, Armidale, Moree and Gunnedah. People travelling from Greater Newcastle stations on this corridor are also primarily travelling to these stations.


Three coach operators currently provide scheduled, public transport connections between Greater Newcastle and regional and capital city destinations:

  • NSW TrainLink
    • Newcastle – Taree
    • Trialling services between Newcastle – Tamworth
  • Sid Foggs
    • Newcastle – Dubbo
  • Greyhound
    • Sydney – Brisbane, via Newcastle

Within Greater Newcastle, there are five contract areas in which bus services are provided:

  • Contract area 1: Rover Coaches
  • Contract area 2: Hunter Valley Buses
  • Contract area 3: Port Stephens Coaches
  • Contract area 4: Hunter Valley Buses
  • Contract area 5: Newcastle Transport

Opal fares are available on services operated by the bus companies listed above. Current travel opportunities across contract areas are limited or infrequent in some cases, and travel between major destinations across the region can often require interchange between two or more buses.

In January 2018 Newcastle Transport introduced a new timetable and revised bus routes to reflect passenger travel demand. This has seen an increase in patronage since the beginning of the year.

Public transport data shows key places people travel to and from in Greater Newcastle using the public transport network. However, it only reflects the existing network. Despite this limitation, bus patronage data shows strong demand for travel to and from key destinations such as Charlestown Square shopping centre, University of Newcastle, Stockland Jesmond shopping centre, Stockland Glendale shopping centre as well as schools across the region. This is represented in Figure 28.


A ferry service operates between Stockton and Queens Wharf in the Newcastle city centre. In 2017, an average of 1,300 trips were made each day on the service. Newcastle ferry patronage has grown over the past year with January 2018 seeing a record 48,000 trips; an increase of 9,000 trips compared to the number taken in January 2017.


Point-to-point services include on demand services, taxis, rideshare and Community Transport.

A Newcastle Transport On Demand bus trial currently operates in addition to existing scheduled bus routes in Dudley, Whitebridge, Mount Hutton, Windale, Tingira Heights, Eleebana, Warners Bay, Gateshead and Charlestown areas (see Figure 30). Transport is available from 9am to 4pm on weekdays, 7am to 6pm on Saturday and 9am to 6pm on Sunday.

Services can be booked using a Smartphone app or by a regular phone call. Since its commencement, patronage has grown from 232 rides in January 2018 to 1,318 rides in April 2018.

A number of taxi operators service Greater Newcastle, with many offering services across the day with a range of vehicle types and configurations available to cater for a diverse passenger population.

Uber and other on demand operators also provide ridesharing services in Greater Newcastle. They offer a range of vehicle types and services, including drivers who assist passengers into vehicles and can accommodate folding wheelchairs, walkers, and scooters, as well as fully wheelchair accessible vehicles.

The University of Newcastle has implemented a carpooling app to match riders with drivers. Drivers get access to exclusive carpooling parking spaces to promote less single occupancy vehicle trips.

Community Transport services provided under contract to Transport for NSW are available for eligible clients (primarily frail aged people) living in their own homes in the five local government areas of Greater Newcastle. Transport is provided by bus or car, depending on the type of transport suitable for the journey, and some vehicles are wheelchair accessible. Typically clients receive transport to medical appointments, shopping and social outings.

Access to public transport

The Public Transport Accessibility Level (PTAL) is a measure of accessibility from a point of interest on the public transport network. It defines accessibility in terms of the time taken to walk to a public transport access point (such as a bus stop or railway station), the average waiting time for a public transport service at that access point and the frequency of service.

For example, a location within 400 metres of a public transport stop where services operate every 15 minutes is ranked as excellent, while another location at a distance greater 400 metres to a stop or where a stop has less frequent services is ranked less than excellent. Areas that are located far from a stop are not ranked at all.

As shown in Figure 33, data for 2015 shows that most strategic centres within Greater Newcastle have excellent PTAL ratings in the AM peak. These are concentrated in Newcastle city centre. Areas outside the metro heart generally have less than excellent ratings throughout the day.
The PTAL suggests that new service options could be investigated to cater for people living outside the metro heart who need to travel to their local centres, such as for shopping and services, between the weekday peak hours and on weekends.

Active transport

Greater Newcastle has some world class cycleway infrastructure, but the network is not connected. There is more than 900 kilometres of existing cycleways within the Greater Newcastle area (Figure 34), including 296 kilometres of off road paths. Examples include the popular Fernleigh Cycleway, Warners Bay Foreshore and the Lake Trail at Walka Water Works in Oakhampton.

Newcastle City Council, Lake Macquarie City Council, Maitland City Council and Cessnock City Council each have comprehensive Bike Plans that identify a network of local cycleways that would complete the network to schools, shops, sports fields and other local centres. More than 287 kilometres of planned off road paths are identified in local government bike plans – doubling the existing network.


Greater Newcastle has airports at Williamtown (Newcastle Airport), Cessnock and Belmont. Newcastle Airport at Williamtown is one of the largest combined defence and civilian aerodromes in Australia. In 2017, 1.27 million passengers passed through Newcastle Airport. Flight destinations include Sydney, Brisbane, Gold Coast, Melbourne, Canberra, Dubbo, Taree, Ballina and Adelaide. Figure 35 shows Newcastle Airport’s connections to destinations outside NSW as in February 2018.

Cessnock and Belmont Airports offer private flights and training opportunities. By 2036, Newcastle Airport’s projections show a minimum of 2.6 million passengers using Newcastle Airport each year. However, there are aspirations to fly as many as 5 million passengers a year by 2036. There are further opportunities for freight and international flights, connecting people and goods to the Asia Pacific region and beyond.

Where people in Greater Newcastle travel

Based on data from the Household Travel Survey (5 year pooled data – 2011/12-2015/16), the majority of trips by Greater Newcastle residents occur within the five local government areas. Only five percent of all trips by residents on a daily basis are to/from destinations outside Greater Newcastle. Of these trips, there is a strong pull to the south, towards the Central Coast (73 percent of trips made outside Greater Newcastle).

This reflects Greater Newcastle’s strong self-containment and strength as a Global Gateway City. This is especially clear when compared with the Central Coast where 15 percent of all trips by residents are to/from outside the region and nearly a third of Central Coast workers leave the area for work.

However, Greater Newcastle’s dispersed population and large numbers of people living in peninsulas presents a challenge in providing transport services and infrastructure between the various destinations and centres.
Currently, strong travel demand (over 1,000 trips a day) exists between:

Maitland and Metford, via East Maitland
Broadmeadow and Newcastle city centre
Charlestown and Newcastle city centre
Kotara and Charlestown/Broadmeadow
Newcastle port and Newcastle city centre.

To a lesser extent, demand to/from these centres also extends to other locations such as Raymond Terrace, Cessnock, Nelson Bay and Morisset.

At a LGA level, large volumes of people travel between Lake Macquarie and Newcastle LGAs each day and to a lesser extent between Maitland and Newcastle LGAs as well as Port Stephens and Newcastle LGAs. Most growth is expected to occur between Newcastle and Lake Macquarie LGAs.

We need to match transport services and infrastructure with the level of demand generated. Clear, strong transport corridors should be provided between centres of high demand. There should be opportunities to connect to these corridors in areas where there is a lower level of demand.

These strong transport corridors will experience increased pressure into the future, especially as the majority of new housing and population growth will be located along the different development fronts in the metro frame and throughout the metro core as infill. Planning for travel options, such as effective public and active transport, is necessary to ensure efficient access for our customers.


Where people travel to/from Greater Newcastle

Journey to Work data from the 2011 Census provides an understanding of the travel between Greater Newcastle and other regions. Close to 14,000 people travel into Greater Newcastle for work. Most travel from the Central Coast (47%), Greater Sydney (11%) and Dungog LGA (10%).

A larger number travel outside the Greater Newcastle area for work (22,444 people). They primarily travel to the Singleton LGA (27%), Central Coast (21%) and Greater Sydney (19%).

Travel demand forecasts for travel to/from the Greater Newcastle area are limited due to the study area of the Strategic Travel Model. However, forecasts show continued increased demand for travel west into the broader Hunter region as well as south towards the Central Coast and Greater Sydney regions.

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