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COVID and bushfires response

How Transport for NSW has adapted to change

Transport for NSW has, and will continue to be, tested by disruptions that require us to adapt to change.

Transport for NSW, like the broader community, has, and will continue to be, tested by disruptions that require us to adapt to changing circumstances, many of which are unanticipated events. These will impact our trajectory towards delivering the Future Transport vision, and progress will not always be linear. These challenges will require us to adapt, while remaining focused on how we deliver value for our customers and communities.

In these events, we will be guided by our future vision and the latest data around the needs, wants and sentiments of our customers and community. While challenging, such events are also an opportunity adapt and learn, for the benefit of the community in the future.

COVID-19

Transport responded swiftly to the COVID-19 pandemic, delivering innovative solutions to keep the network running while maintaining the highest health and safety standards for customers and the team at Transport. This was supported by our collaboration with industry, including with our public transport operators and point to point providers. 

A centralised taskforce was formed, drawing on all parts of the cluster and empowered to act in a connected way to respond to the ever-changing COVID-19 situation, in partnership with key stakeholders across NSW Government. The taskforce contributed to implementing strategies that helped to keep our network safe and running throughout the COVID 19 pandemic. Transport is   providing ongoing support the NSW COVID-19 response, but initial actions, included:

  • Maintaining public transport service delivery across NSW
  • Placing ‘dots’ on public transport seats to show customers the safest places to sit and stand, and to facilitate physical distancing capacity limits on services.
  • Maintaining a 98 per cent social distancing score across services
  • Deploying marshalling response and support teams on the Greater Sydney and the Outer Metropolitan transport networks.
  • Providing COVID safe travel notifications on the Opal Travel app with advanced alerts for physical distancing on trains and Metro.
  • Automating pedestrian crossings at key intersections in the Sydney CBD and around health precincts.
  • Transferring more than 130,000 passengers by coach to quarantine between March 2020 and February 2021.
  • Providing over one million additional cleaning hours on the network.
  • Working with NSW Health, NSW Police Service, local communities and interstate colleagues to manage multiple border closures and restrictions, included managing the Victorian border closure which required more than 30 checkpoints to be established and maintained along the Murray River border towns. 
  • Supporting the national freight protocols regarding the movement of freight, and managing a number of COVID-19 testing sites for freight operators.

Transport also acted quickly to provide more services to support its customers, including providing options for walking and cycling and demand management.

COVID-19 has drastically changed our lives, with a higher percentage of people now working from home and travelling less on the transport network. Although COVID-19 has presented many challenges, some huge opportunities have also arisen and an agile approach to planning and service delivery has enabled a quick response to changing customer needs.

One of the most striking lifestyle changes to emerge in response to COVID-19 is the change in how and where people work. Flexible working arrangements, including working from home, are likely to persist, which may subdue some activities in CBD hubs such as the Sydney CBD, Parramatta CBD and Chatswood, while increasing local centre activities. An enduring increase in people working from home could give more people choice in where to live, such as further from their place of work. These patterns will also be impacted by changing demographics, with potentially slower population growth in NSW in the short term.

Transport for NSW is actively monitoring these trends, and collecting data to inform our planning to manage these longer term impacts of COVID-19. 

In addition to responding to meeting changing customer needs, Transport also plays a key role in supporting the recovery of the community from COVID-19, through its role as an infrastructure and services provider, employer, and job creator. As an example, Transport is helping to stimulate local economies and create jobs via an accelerated $100 million of funding for road and rail projects between March and November 2020. 

Transport is also working with independent infrastructure bodies, including Infrastructure NSW, on plans for infrastructure recovery, long-term sustainability and resilience.

Read more about the ten principles to recovery.

Find out more about our COVID-19 response

 

Bushfires

The transport network was significantly affected, both during and after the bushfires. Transport staff across the State put in an extraordinary effort to support communities in responding to the bushfire crisis, with hundreds of staff out in the fire-affected regions helping to coordinate the response. This included managing road closures, directing customers to alternative routes and services, geotechnical and arborist teams inspecting roads and rail line conditions, and crews clearing vegetation and debris.


The damage

  • 880 kilometres of State roads and 23 assets, mostly along rail corridors, were damaged or destroyed with a repair estimate of $90 million.
  • Major arterial roads impacted included Kings Highway (35 kilometres), Oxley Highway (50 kilometres), Gwydir Highway (70 kilometres) and Princes Highway (400 kilometres).
  • On a local level, there were 150 kilometres of damaged roads, 48 bridges destroyed and 17 damaged, with repair estimates exceeding $83 million.

 

The repair

  • The swift rebuilding effort by almost 1,000 transport staff in the immediate aftermath of fire kept critical lifelines to regional NSW open and working.
  • The State’s Main West Line through the Blue Mountains required more than 150,000 hours of work to rebuild track infrastructure damaged by fires and floods.

Regional Transport teams also took proactive steps to improve freight movements and ensure food, fuel and other supplies could reach affected communities. This included accelerating the assessment of fire damaged sections of the Princes Highway to ensure timely recovery efforts to safely re-open roads.

NSW TrainLink teams arranged replacement of train services on the Blue Mountains Line as a result of bushfire damage to sections of the track and signalling structures, and for the entire journey between Dubbo to Broken Hill. 

Additionally, Maritime teams worked with a number of agencies, including the Rural Fire Service and Marine Area Command, to ensure the safety of boaters, and assist with the delivery of provisions and supplies, and evacuations by water.

An agile and resilient network is needed to reduce the impact on any future bushfire events. We are increasing future resilience of the transport network by ensuring the use of fire-resistant materials, and designing places to ensure multiple entry and exit points. We are also improving evacuation routes, access for emergency services and the resilience of strategic transport corridors to support access and connectivity during these events.

Other project highlights

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