Person driving a vehicle infographic icon

Average distance travelled per vehicle

12,000 km

in 2019–20

Bus infographic icon

COVID-19 saw public transport patronage in Greater Sydney drop by


in 2020–21, compared to 2018–19 levels

Vehicle and exhaust pipe infographic icon

Transport sector greenhouse gas emissions increased by


since 2005

Electric car infographic icon

Electric vehicles made up


of light vehicles on NSW roads as at March 2021

The demand for transport has increased as the population grows. Total vehicle kilometres travelled for light duty vehicles, primarily passenger vehicles, peaked in 2018–19 and dropped due to COVID-19 travel restrictions. The transport sector (road, rail, ship and air) is one of the major contributors to greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution in NSW. Electric Vehicle (EV) sales are expected to increase as a result of the NSW Electric Vehicle Strategy which aims to make the state the easiest place to buy and use an EV in Australia. Electrifying the NSW fleet is integral in reaching net zero emissions by 2050.

Why transport is important

Transport plays a key role in the movement of people and goods. Transport assists participation in social life and fulfils an essential economic function. However, the construction and operation of transport infrastructure may have negative environmental impacts, including:

  • reliance on non-renewable resources for fuel
  • greenhouse gas emissions
  • noise and air pollution
  • land clearing.

Private modes of transport, such as cars, generally have greater impacts on the environment than trains, buses, ferries and light rail. This is because they are less efficient at moving large numbers of people and mostly rely on polluting energy sources. Walking and cycling are the most energy efficient transport modes. Current major public transport delivery programs will reduce fuel consumption and congestion and lead to lower environmental impacts caused by private cars.

Freight transport by rail can have a lower environmental impact than moving freight by road because it is more efficient at carrying larger volumes of goods. Environment protection licences held by rail freight operators and rail infrastructure owners help manage environmental impacts such as noise.

NSW indicators

Indicator and status Environmental
Vehicle kilometres travelled (total)
Poor status meter
Stable ✔✔✔
Vehicle kilometres travelled (per person)
Moderate status meter
Stable ✔✔✔
Public transport use overall trips
Good status meter

Getting better


Percentage of electric vehicles of the NSW car fleet
Poor status meter
Getting better ✔✔✔


Terms and symbols used above are defined in About this report.

Status and Trends

The total distance travelled by motor vehicles in NSW increased by 13% in the eight-year period between 2009–10 and 2017–18 and then dipped 10% during 2019–20 because of statewide COVID-19 restrictions on travel (ABS 2020b). Heavy truck vehicle kilometres travelled (VKT) increased 8% between 2017–18 and 2019–20 while passenger vehicle VKT decreased by 16%. In this time, NSW's population grew by 12.5% (ABS 2021a) (see Spotlight figure 4).

Spotlight figure 4: NSW total number of registered vehicles, population and vehicle kilometres travelled 2009–10 to 2019–20


Terms and symbols used above are defined in How to use the report.

ABS 2011, 2020b, 2021a

In 2019–20, around 6.2 million Greater Sydney residents made 18.6 million trips by all modes of transport on an average weekday – around three trips per person per day. Private motor vehicles remained the dominant mode of transport in NSW, accounting for 68% of all trips on an average weekday by Sydney residents and over 80% of trips by Hunter and Illawarra residents (TfNSW 2021a).

Transport emissions are currently the second largest component of NSW greenhouse gas emissions. Since 1990, transport emissions have increased from 19Mt to 28 Mt (DISER 2021a), with 2019 emissions 48% higher than 1990 levels (Adapt NSW 2021). This is an average increase in transport emissions of 1.65% per year. This reflects activity increases across transport modes due to population and economic growth. Petrol and diesel-fuelled vehicles are the main sources of oxides of nitrogen (NOx) emissions in Greater Sydney and the second largest source of population exposure to fine particles (Broome et al. 2020). Other potential environmental impacts include noise pollution and fragmentation of ecosystems.


The NSW population is expected to grow to 10.57 million by 2041, which without government action will lead to more vehicles on the roads and more demand for public transport. In spite of the projected increase in VKT, the strong reduction in vehicle emission rates due to tightening national vehicle emission standards has resulted in significant reductions in total fleet emissions to date, and these reductions are projected to continue over the next 10–20 years (EPA 2018). However, due to the contribution of non-exhaust particle emissions from road brake and tyre wear, total particle emissions will begin to increase from around 2026. Together with increasing population and population density, total population exposure to transport fine particle emissions is likely to increase without the rapid uptake of zero-emission vehicles and improvement in transport efficiency.

Urban sprawl leads to greater reliance on private vehicles. Construction of new roads can have significant impacts on wildlife and can lead to a direct loss of mature trees and canopy, which in turn exacerbates the urban heat island effect (Landcom 2020). Tyres and brake linings, petrol and oil deposits are a major source of heavy metals which can be washed into the stormwater systems during rain, eventually polluting waterways.

Ballast water, sewage, and wastes from international shipping vessels have environmental impacts on our coastal ecosystems.


A range of transport infrastructure service and technology initiatives are being delivered under Future Transport 2056 which aims to encourage travel by public and active transport (such as walking and cycling), rather than by private car, which can help reduce traffic congestion and greenhouse gas emissions. These initiatives aim to increase the proportion of electric vehicles in the state. The NSW Electric Vehicle Strategy is the State government's plan to accelerate the NSW vehicle fleet of the future. Transport for NSW’s Future Energy Strategy commits to securing energy needs from sustainable sources, supporting the transition of the transport sector to net zero emissions by 2050. For example, the electrified rail network was moved to renewable energy in mid-2021 and planning is also under way for the transition of the full NSW bus fleet of over 8,000 buses to zero emissions buses.

The environmental impacts of transport can be lessened by reducing the distance people need to travel to workplaces and essential facilities. Future Transport 2056: Greater Sydney services and Infrastructure Plan (TfNSW 2018a) sets out a vision for achieving this by shifting from one central business district to a metropolis of three cities: The Eastern Harbour City, the Central River City and the Western Parkland City. The aim is for people to more conveniently access jobs and services by travel to one of these cities within 30 minutes from home. The Future Transport Technology Roadmap 2021–2024 also commits to delivering mobility as a service for seamless and personalised journeys by public transport, on demand and shared mobility services, with easier trip planning for walking and cycling to support reduced transport emissions, cleaner and quieter neighbourhoods and more active lives.

Strategies to manage environmental impacts of road and related infrastructure are part of project planning, design, construction, operation and maintenance. Strategies include minimising the use of non-renewable resources, managing erosion and sediment during construction works, protecting biodiversity via planning approvals and conditions, implementing additional wildlife protection features, such as fauna fencing and fauna crossings (Biosis 2016) and reducing energy use and greenhouse gas emissions through LED traffic lights.

Related topics: Climate Change | Energy Consumption | Greenhouse Gas Emissions | Population


Transport plays a key role in allowing people and goods to get from one place to another. However, vehicles, roads, freight and infrastructure can all have environmental impacts. These include:

  • reliance on non-renewable resources for fuel
  • greenhouse gas emissions
  • noise and air pollution
  • land clearing and habitat loss due to construction of roads and infrastructure.

Reducing congestion and improving access between homes, work and service centres are important challenges for all metropolitan and regional centres and these are being addressed by making public transport and active transport more attractive options.

Private modes of transport, such as cars, generally have greater impacts on the environment than trains, buses, ferries and light rail. This is because they are less efficient at moving large numbers of people and mostly rely on polluting energy sources. Walking and cycling are the most energy efficient. Improving the quality and delivery of better public transport will lead to patronage and lower environmental impacts.

Freight transport by rail has a lower environmental impact than moving freight by road because it is more efficient at carrying larger volumes of goods. However, goods rail lines can also be a source of noise, which can be reduced by improving the condition of rolling stock and the track.

Since the advent of COVID-19 in early 2020, travel volumes and distances have been significantly changed due to a combination of local travel restrictions, severely constrained tourist and leisure travel, and widespread working from home and physical distancing obligations.

Public transport patronage dropped by 41.6% in 2020-21 compared to 2018-19 levels, according to Transport for NSW data (TfNSW 2022).

In the year to June 2020, the total distance travelled by road in NSW dropped by a third from 28,728 million kilometres in the first four months to 18,804 million kilometres in the last four months, reflected by a 24% reduction in fuel use from 3,706 megalitres to 2,799 megalitres. In the same period, the average distance travelled by each passenger vehicle dropped from 4,500km to 2,800km, a reduction of 38%. The average distances for all vehicles is shown in Figure 4.1. The first and second four-month periods were affected by bushfires (ABS 2020a).

Figure 4.1: Kilometres travelled by NSW vehicles by four-month period July 2019 to June 2020

ABS 2020a

Total distance travelled by NSW motor vehicles since 2009–10 has generally trended upward, reaching a peak of 78,418 million kilometres in 2017–18, followed by a steep drop to 70,850 million kilometres in 2019–20, mainly due to reduced mobility during the COVID-19 pandemic. This translated to an overall 14.4% fall in distance travelled between 2010 and 2020. Motorcycles saw the largest decrease in annual VKT at 35%, followed by bus (23%) and passenger vehicles at 19.5% (ABS 2011, 2020b).

The average distance travelled per vehicle in 2019¬20 was 12,000 kilometres (ABS 2020b).

Figure 4.2 shows that passenger vehicles accounted for the greatest distances travelled in NSW between 2010 and 2020. Their share in 2019–20 was 67%, followed by light commercial vehicles (22%), rigid trucks (5%) and articulated trucks (4%).

Figure 4.2: NSW vehicle kilometres travelled by vehicle type 2009–10 to 2019–20

ABS 2014, 2016, 2017, 2020b

In-depth personal transport data is collected for the Sydney Greater Capital City Statistical Area (GCCSA) (as defined by the Australian Bureau of Statistics – ABS) and the Hunter and Illawarra regions through the annual Household Travel Survey. The survey is the most comprehensive source of personal travel data in these regions with its statistics used in long-term planning to reduce impacts on the environment, improve amenity and meet the state’s transport needs.

The data indicates that overall demand for transport in the three regions has increased over the past decade due to population growth, urban growth and increased economic activity.

Total trips

Between 2009–10 and 2019–20 on an average weekday, the total number of trips in the Sydney, Hunter and Illawarra regions by all modes of transport increased by 11.8% from just over 19.6 million trips to around 22 million trips (TfNSW 2021a). This is lower than the rate of population growth over the same period (14.5%).

Use of public transport has increased in Greater Sydney, accounting for 12.8% of transport use on an average weekday in 2019–20. Public transport as a proportion of all modes has grown since 2009–10 when 10.7% of weekday trips were by public transport. Private motor vehicles continue to dominate personal transport in all regions, but in Sydney vehicle kilometres travelled per person has declined.

Public transport patronage has increased from about 729 million trips in 2016–17 to more than 802 million trips in 2018–19. During the initial COVID-19 restrictions in March to June 2020, the patronage data showed a significant drop in the use of public transport with 59% reduction across all modes, 62% reduction in passenger trips for Sydney Trains, 57% reduction in passenger trips for bus and 74% reduction for Sydney Ferries when compared to that of the equivalent period in 2018–19, i.e. March to June 2019. This reflected the widespread uptake of work-from-home arrangements at the time and has contributed to the lower public transport patronage in 2020–21 of 468 million (TfNSW 2021d).


On an average weekday in 2019–20, Sydney residents took approximately 19.8 million trips by all modes of transport, an increase of 17.7% over 2009–10 figures. VKT also increased in the region during this period by approximately 21.3%.

Other trends for trips on an average weekday between 2009–10 and 2019–20 include (TfNSW 2021a):

  • a fall in trips per person by only 2.7% from 3.7 to 3.6
  • work-related business trips decreased by 16%
  • population rose by about 14.6% (ABS 2021c).

Figure 4.3 provides more detail about the purpose of trips on an average weekday in Sydney in 2019–20.

Figure 4.3: Total trips for various purposes on an average weekday in Sydney 2019–20

TfNSW 2021a

Hunter and the Illawarra

Trends for the Hunter region for trips on an average weekday between 2009–10 and 2019–20 include (TfNSW 2021a):

  • 1.92 million trips, down slightly from 1.93 million in 2009–10
  • a fall in trips per person of 16.2% from 3.7 to 3.1
  • work-related business trips decreased by 46.3%
  • 15.6% growth in population.

Trends for the Illawarra region for trips on an average weekday during this period include:

  • 1.47 million trips, down 10.8% from 1.65 million in 2009–10
  • a fall in trips per person of 20% from 4 to 3.2
  • work-related business trips decreased by 40.5%
  • 10.2% growth in population.

Regional NSW

Transport options to service those in rural and remote communities, include bus services (approximately 90% of routes are school services) and On Demand (point to point travel option in some regional centres).

Bushfires in late 2019 and impacts of COVID-19 from early 2020 have impacted regional transport significantly in some areas, leading to a reduction in trips.

Trends for rural and regional buses between 2018–19 and 2020–21 (12 months to March 2021) include:

  • 38.6 million trips in 2020–21, down 20% from 48 million in 2018–19
  • 87% of trips in 2020–21 were on school services (in NSW the general public can travel on school services)
  • school students account for 93% of trips across all services (school and regular services in 2020–21)

Trends for On Demand between 2018–19 and 2020–21:

  • 125,000 trips in 2020–21, an increase of 250% from 36,000 in 2018–19 (when most contracts began).

In 2016, people in regional communities recorded only a slight increase in average distance to their workplace (16.9 kilometres) compared to Greater Sydney (16.5 kilometres) (ABS 2016). More recent data is not available for regional NSW, and no equivalent study to the Household Travel Survey is undertaken for regional centres.

The decline in per person trips coincides with the rise in the use of smart phones and information technologies. Social changes associated with these technologies, such as online shopping and working from home, are a likely factor in the reduction of work-related and personal business trips, but do not account for the increase in shopping trips.

Smart phones and online platforms facilitate the use of ride share, car share and bike share businesses. Ridesharing provides a flexible and scalable solution to the ‘last mile’ problem, connecting riders from a transport hub to their door. Data from 2016 from the nation’s biggest rideshare company, Uber, showed people in Sydney used the rideshare app to get home safely in the evenings and at times when public transport was infrequent or unavailable. Rideshare services will have greater importance post-pandemic as cities begin moving again, with commuters making new choices about how they get from A to B (Uber 2020).

The provision of online and real-time information on public transport services is assisting journey planning and decision-making by travellers. This includes websites, contact centres, apps, social media and data feeds to third party providers. In 2019–20, around 169 million trip plans were provided to public transport users through such channels (TfNSW 2020a), a 187% increase since 2016–17.

While public transport has numerous social, economic and environmental benefits, the Household Travel Survey indicates that private vehicles, such as cars and motorbikes, remain the dominant mode of transport for residents in the surveyed areas.


On an average weekday in Sydney in 2019–20 (TfNSW 2021a):

  • 68% of trips were by private vehicles
  • 6% were by bus
  • 7% were by train
  • fewer than 1% were by ferries and light rail
  • under 2% were by other transport modes (mainly taxis and bicycles)
  • 18% were by walking.

Figure 4.4 shows that, while the proportion of trips on an average weekday for each mode of transport has largely remained constant, total trips on an average weekday over the 10-year period reveal:

  • a 16.2% increase in total trips
  • 33.8% more public transport trips
  • a 14.7% increase in trips by private vehicles.

Figure 4.4: Trips by mode for Greater Sydney residents on an average weekday (2009–10 to 2019–20)


‘Vehicle’ includes cars, motorbikes and scooters for trips by drivers and passengers
‘Public transport’ includes bus, train, ferry and light rail
‘Other’ includes bicycle, taxi/rideshare/car share, aircraft and other

TfNSW 2021a

The Opal smartcard ticketing system, which was rolled out in 2012, is used to pay for travel on public transport in Sydney, the Blue Mountains, Central Coast, the Hunter and the Illawarra. Figure 4.5 shows the number of trips by mode, based on Opal ticketing data, on the network from 2010–11 to 2020–21. Over 792 million journeys were made in 2018–19 before the onset of COVID-19. The following year patronage declined to 314 million trips due to travel restrictions and an increase in remote working.

Figure 4.5: Public transport patronage by mode over the Opal network 2010–11 to 2020–21


Official estimates for journeys includes magnetic stripe ticketing (pre-Opal), Opal and tickets sold on board vehicles, along with estimates to account for unticketed travel.

Historical patronage data contains changes to the methodology of calculating trips resulting in figures that may not be directly comparable across years.

TfNSW 2021d

Hunter and the Illawarra

In both regions, the Household Travel Survey shows that in 2019–20 over 80% of trips on an average weekday were by private vehicle (see Figures 4.6 and 4.7). Fewer than 5% of trips were by public transport in the Hunter and 5.4% of trips in the Illawarra. Walking was a more common mode of travel than public transport in both regions at 7.8% and 9.4%, respectively.

Figure 4.6: Number of trips on an average weekday by mode for Hunter residents 2009–10 to 2019–20


‘Vehicle’ includes cars, motorbikes and scooters for trips by drivers and passengers.
‘Public transport’ includes bus, train, ferry and light rail.
*** ‘Other’ includes bicycles, taxis, aircraft and wheelchairs.

TfNSW 2021a

Figure 4.7: Number of trips on an average weekday by mode for Illawarra residents 2009–10 to 2019–20


‘Vehicle’ includes cars, motorbikes and scooters for trips by drivers and passengers
‘Public transport’ includes bus, train, ferry and light rail
‘Other’ includes bicycles, taxis, aircraft and wheelchairs

TfNSW 2021a

Since 2009–10, the number of trips on an average weekday by private vehicles increased in both regions. Train trips increased by 90% in the Hunter but remained stable in the Illawarra. Bus patronage in the Hunter region declined by 19.4% but increased by 41.9% in the Illawarra.

Regional centres

Regional towns are serviced by regional trains and coaches stopping at 369 transit station locations. Together these carried over 1.7 million passengers in 2018–19. Intercity trains saw an average of 112, 224 daily passengers during 2019. During the COVID-19 pandemic in 2019–20, regional and intercity passenger numbers dropped by 47.5% and 51% respectively.

Walking and cycling

Between 2009–10 and 2019–20, walking as a proportion of trips on an average weekday was static or declined across all Household Travel Survey regions. In Sydney, walking as a proportion of trips has remained stable at around 18%. In other regions, the number of trips by walking declined by 46.6% in the Illawarra and 24.6% in the Hunter.

An annual survey conducted by Cycling and Walking Australia and New Zealand (CWANZ 2021) found that in NSW in 2021, 15.4% of residents ride a bicycle in a typical week, which is below the national average of 18.2%. Weekly cycling participation is slightly higher in regional NSW (16.2%) compared to greater Sydney (14.9%). Active transport cycling couriers can help manage growth in congested CBD environments.

Weekly cycling participation in NSW for males (19.6%) in NSW is substantially higher than for females (11.2%) (CWANZ 2021), and males make up 80% of adults who cycle for commuting purposes. A 2020 study conducted by the City of Sydney found that infrastructure including separated cycleways and street lighting are important in helping female riders feel confident and inclusive public space, end-of-trip facilities and secure places to lock up bicycles would entice more females to ride more often.

Vehicle ownership and use are influenced by a variety of factors, including reason for journey, travel time, income, fuel prices, ease of parking and environmental awareness. In the absence of convenient alternative transport options, owning and using a private vehicle is viewed by many as a necessity, not a choice.

In June 2021, the NSW government recorded 6.9 million motor vehicle registrations, a 20.9% increase in all vehicle types in NSW since 2009–10. During this period, passenger vehicle registrations grew by 4.8% and motorcycle registrations by 36.7% while registrations of people movers and scooters decreased (TfNSW 2021b). Meanwhile, registrations for off-road vehicles (including vehicles for commercial well as those for private use) increased significantly by 43%. The higher rates of fuel consumption by off-road vehicles compared to cars contribute to increasing greenhouse gas emissions. At 31 December 2020, 72.5% of light trucks and 32.5% (TfNSW 2020d) of off-road vehicles were powered by diesel engines.

In 2020–21, national electric vehicle (EV) registrations increased by 62.3% over the previous year to 23,128 (ABS 2021b). Between 2011 and 2019, NSW had the second highest total number of EV sales (2,532) after Victoria which recorded 2,540 sales (Tesla is excluded from this count). The two most populous states were also level in 2019 with 832 sales in NSW and 815 in Victoria (EVC 2020). As of March 2021, EVs made up just 0.1% of light vehicles on NSW roads (EVC 2021).

Most freight is currently transported by road, except for coal and some other bulk commodities, such as grain, which are primarily moved by rail, and fuel, part of which moves by pipeline. In 2021, the volume of freight moved on the NSW transport network was estimated at approximately 472 million tonnes, up from 409 million tonnes in 2011 (TfNSW 2018d).

The volume of freight moved in the Greater Sydney Area is expected to increase by 48% between 2016 and 2036 and 12% in regional NSW (TfNSW 2018d). Population growth in Sydney will generate increased movements of construction materials, consumer commodities and waste.

Extreme weather conditions brought about by climate change will put greater pressure on the freight transport network's capacity to recover from a disruption. Freight transport networks will also be impacted by the changing pattern of the supply chain to a more sustainable future and government regulation, such as support for EVs and taxes on fossil fuels.

Particular sectors are more heavily road transport intensive than others. For example, the construction sector is heavily dependent on road transport for delivery of crude materials used in construction (e.g. sand, gravel and cement) and comprises around 30% of total road freight tonnages. Similarly, the retail sector is also a heavy user of road freight services (13% of total road freight) and manufactures and machinery together accounted for around 18.8% of total road freight tonnages in 2017–18 (BITRE 2019).

Household consumables and construction materials are relatively high-volume freight commodities in NSW, whose demand in 2020-21 is estimated to be about 11 million tonnes and 42 million tonnes, respectively. Recent trends in NSW household consumption and residential construction activity are therefore likely strong indicators of the volume of freight moved, especially in urban areas like Greater Sydney.

Container volumes are a useful indicator of the broad strength of the NSW freight market. In 2020-21, Port Botany full container volumes were at 1.77 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs), almost at the same level (1.81 million TEUs) recorded during pre-COVID year in 2018–19 (NSW Ports 2021).

Coal exports are by far the largest single commodity by volume moved in NSW, accounting for approximately one-third of total NSW freight. Grain is the largest agricultural commodity transported around the state. Coal exports and grain production provide a signal about the strength of the mineral and agricultural segments of the NSW freight market, respectively.

Over the past five years, coal exports have remained at historically high levels, at over 150 million tonnes per annum (see Figure 4.8). The Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resources Economics and Sciences expected NSW grain production to record a strong turnaround in 2020–21 due to the favourable growing conditions after heavy rainfall in autumn 2020. Grain production and yield is very much dependent on environmental factors.

Figure 4.8: Recent trends in NSW coal exports and grain production


Maritrade data from Australian Border Force (via Australian Bureau of Statistics)



The NSW population is expected to grow to 10.57 million people by 2041. Continued growth will bring:

  • an increase in passenger demand for public transport
  • an increase in the number of private vehicles
  • more traffic on the roads and increasing congestion
  • more goods moving around the state.

The consequences of not rapidly transitioning to an electric fleet powered by a decarbonised energy grid include:

  • more noise and air pollution
  • increased production of greenhouse gases
  • increased pressure on non-renewable resources due to the demand for fossil fuel
  • runoff from roads, which affects water quality.

Air pollution

In NSW, the transport sector is the fastest growing producer of greenhouse gas emissions. The sector accounted for 20% of emissions in 2021, having grown steadily since 2005, an increase of 16% (DISER 2021b). The sector is the second-largest greenhouse gas producer in the state, behind electricity generation (see the Greenhouse Gas Emissions topic).

In the Greater Sydney Region, transport emissions continue to be the main source of oxides of nitrogen (NOx) entering the atmosphere (see the Air Quality topic). Air pollutants from traffic also include particulate matter, volatile organic carbons (VOC) ozone, carbon monoxide and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). VOC and NOx react on warm, sunny days to form ground-level ozone. On-road motor vehicles are the second highest human-made source of population exposure to fine particle pollution (Broome et al. 2020).

A systematic review of Traffic Related Air Pollution (TRAP) (HEI 2010) found there was sufficient evidence to conclude that exposure to traffic-related air pollution causes exacerbation of asthma. The evidence linking exposure from traffic-related air pollution to other health outcomes was weaker, but suggestive of a causal relationship. These outcomes were onset of childhood asthma, non‑asthma respiratory symptoms, impaired lung function, total and cardiovascular mortality and cardiovascular morbidity. In 2012, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (a World Health Organisation body) classified diesel engine exhaust as carcinogenic to humans based on sufficient evidence that exposure is associated with an increased risk for lung cancer. Reducing exposure to traffic-related air pollution will provide public health benefits, including improved cardiovascular and respiratory health and reduced rates of some cancers (NSW Health 2018).

Australia’s new vehicle emission standards are set nationally in the Australian Design Rules (ADRs) and have been significantly tightened over the last 40 years. The National Fuel Quality Standards have progressively required cleaner fuels to complement the ADRs and enable use of improved emission control technology. Combined, this has led to strong reductions in the total vehicle emissions to date and these reductions are projected to continue over the next 10–15 years even without uptake of electric and other zero-emission vehicles. However, due the contribution of non-exhaust particle emissions from road brake and tyre wear, total particle emissions will begin to increase from around 2026.

NSW undertakes additional measures to reduce vehicle related emissions, including petrol volatility limits in summer and service station vapour recovery requirements. Motor vehicle emissions are also managed through the EPA’s smoky vehicle program which targets vehicles emitting excessive air impurities.

Noise pollution

Road traffic noise can have a significant impact on the community therefore a balance needs to be reached between providing efficient road transport infrastructure and minimising the adverse environmental effects of road use.

The growth in motor vehicle numbers and the community response to ongoing undesirable road traffic noise confirm the need to continue to develop programs to minimise the impact of such noise. Gains anticipated from tougher noise emission limits from individual motor vehicles through ADRs are likely to be limited to a few decibels. More significant gains may come from:

  • reducing noise from tyres
  • the take-up of electric vehicles with their quieter electric motors
  • strategies that reduce motor vehicle use
  • programs that enforce existing laws and standards for maintaining the condition of vehicles and modifying noisy vehicles.

However, the most significant benefits are expected to come from the effective environmental impact assessment of road projects and traffic-generating developments adjacent to roads.

New road projects, especially those in greenfield areas, generally offer more opportunities to ensure that noise impacts are minimised and criteria are met. Road location and layout are more readily adjusted in greenfield areas than in built-up areas, and in many cases, subsequent land use developments can be planned with regard to their sensitivity to noise. The redevelopment of existing road corridors offers a limited range of noise control measures due to the proximity of residents to the road and limited road re-design options (DECCW 2011). Walking and cycling infrastructure typically complement new roads and provide a zero or low-range noise outcome.

Environmental impacts

Biodiversity and wildlife

Construction of new roads and transport infrastructure, if not planned and managed carefully, may contribute to the fragmentation of ecosystems, with adverse effects on wildlife and vegetation. New roads in regional and fringe urban areas can have a particularly heavy toll on wildlife unless properly mitigated. In turn, upgrades to the existing road network can offer important opportunities to address existing impacts including vehicle strike and habitat isolation.

Roads enhance the dispersal and movement of weeds and invasive species which can displace native species, degrade habitat, or change genetic populations through interbreeding. Seeds and spores can travel on vehicles in mud deposits and colonise new areas, while feral animals (such as cats, dogs and foxes) use the roads as a corridor to move into new areas (Mackey et al. 1998). Road and track construction can also impact locally on the natural environment, as it can lead to changes in an area's water flows and increase sedimentation in local waterways (see Urban Water Supply topic). Off-road vehicles have an effect on local areas, through increased erosion levels, frightened wildlife, devegetation and increased access to remote areas (ABS 1997).

Road and rail construction also leads to a direct loss of mature trees. Tree canopy is important for reducing the urban heat island effect as well as improving air quality and providing wildlife habitat. The NSW Government has set a target to increase tree canopy cover across Greater Sydney to 40%, from a base of 23% in 2018 (GSC 2018).

Australia's coastal environment is threatened by our heavy dependence on international and coastal shipping. Ballast water, bilge water, sewage, wastes from vessel maintenance and anti-fouling paints cause some of the other environmental impacts associated with shipping. Ballast water, used to stabilise empty ships when travelling to pick up cargoes may contain invasive non-native organisms that can impact on local environments (Newton et al. 2001). Ballast water can introduce non-native and environmentally harmful organisms, diseases, toxins and parasites that affect humans and ecosystems. At least 55 species of fish and invertebrates and a number of seaweeds have been introduced through ballast water discharge (ABS 1997). Anti-fouling paints are used on vessels to stop organisms growing on hulls. The paints contain toxic chemicals that leach into the surrounding water, polluting harbours and waterways.

Urban stormwater

Urban sprawl in cities increases the amount of impervious areas in a catchment area. This leads to increased run-off into local waterways, as less water soaks into the ground. Increased run-off has been linked to the increase in pollution levels of local waterways. Vehicles contribute to this pollution through the build-up of deposits from emissions and from mechanical parts wearing out. Tyres and brake linings (from brake pads etc.) are a major source of heavy metals in urban environments, as are petrol and oil deposits. Cars deposit small amounts of these contaminants as they travel, and as more cars travel, the deposits build up. When it rains, the deposits can be washed into the stormwater systems, eventually polluting waterways, estuaries and beaches, where the stormwater is released (ABS 1997).

Urban sprawl

The pattern of urban development reflects the dominant transport modes, affected by their speed, capacity and stopping patterns. Urban sprawl is enabled by private vehicles and disperses access to goods, services and employment opportunities leading to greater reliance on use of private vehicles. Activity centres and higher-density areas require a mix of infrastructure and policy solutions, such as high-capacity public transport, robust parking policies and prioritisation for pedestrians and cyclists. Planning for sustainable travel through staging and effective integrated land use and transport can help to improve choices and influence how our communities choose to travel.

Rapidly changing land use and development can place pressure on urban transport networks. Governments and transport operators face major challenges in ensuring legacy services remain fit for purpose and that new infrastructure is provided for greenfield and brownfield development (IA 2020).

The NSW Government’s Intergenerational Report has identified that NSW needs to build 42,000 new homes per year, of which one third are to be greenfield homes (UDIA 2021). The provision of public transport services at greenfield sites is critical to avoid the economic cost of congestion and a negative impact on the liveability of the city. Greenfield sites offer some unique challenges when planning public transport as there may be few or no existing services. Where new services are introduced, consideration should be given to how they connect to the surrounding area (TfNSW 2018e).


Legislation and policies


The Transport Administration Act 1988 includes an objective to promote the delivery of services in an environmentally sustainable manner.

The Act also requires public transport agencies to comply with the principles of ecologically sustainable development as defined in section 6 (2) of the Protection of the Environment Administration Act 1991.


The NSW Government’s priorities for transport, infrastructure investment and land-use planning are set out in several linked strategies and plans:

Transport for NSW has developed the following tools to facilitate environmental sustainability in the planning, design, construction, operation and maintenance of transport projects:

Future Transport 2056

Since its release, Future Transport 2056 (TfNSW 2018a) has evolved to reflect the changing environment and remain current. The strategy was updated in 2021 to respond to major changes that impact the way transport is delivered, including recent shocks such as the COVID-19 pandemic and bushfires. The strategy provides a vision for the transport system which is sustainable, resilient and affordable for customers and will actively work to reduce emissions.

The environmental impacts of transport will be lessened by reducing the distance people need to travel to workplaces and essential facilities. Future Transport 2056: Greater Sydney Services and Infrastructure Plan (TfNSW 2018a) sets out a vision for achieving this by shifting from one central business district to a metropolis of three cities: the Eastern Harbour City, the Central River City and the Western Parkland City. The aim is for people to more conveniently access jobs and services by travel to one of these cities or their nearest strategic centre within 30 minutes from home.

Future Energy Strategy and Action Plan

The Future Energy Strategy and Future Energy Action Plan, which was released in 2021, outlines the State government’s commitment to secure transport energy needs from sustainable sources and support the sector’s transition to net zero emissions by 2050. It focuses on addressing direct emissions from road, rail and ferries, as well as indirect emissions from the electricity used for road and rail transport.

Sydney Metro already offsets greenhouse gas emissions from 100% of its operational electricity and is purchasing approximately 134,000 megawatt hours a year from the Beryl Solar Farm located near Gulgong NSW to offset emissions from Metro Northwest.

Sydney Trains and NSW TrainLink’s electricity is 100% renewable from July 2021 to the end of financial year 23/24, and they are developing a strategy to maintain that commitment for the long term.

Future Transport Technology Roadmap 20212024

The Future Transport Technology Roadmap 2021–2024 (TfNSW 2021) is a strategy comprising six priority programs to transform and deliver a world-class customer experience. It promotes NSW as a leading adopter in the major transition to electric, connected and automated vehicles by:

  • trialling new mobility services using cutting edge vehicle technologies
  • transforming the sustainability of the transport sector by transitioning its 8,000 buses to a zero-emissions fleet
  • supporting electric passenger and freight vehicles
  • exploring hydrogen technologies, particularly for long-haul freight.

It also commits to delivering Mobility as a Service for seamless and personalised journeys by public transport, on demand and other shared mobility services which, with easier trip planning for walking and cycling, support reduced transport emissions, cleaner and quieter neighbourhoods and more active lives.

Freight and Ports Plan 2018–2023

The NSW Government’s Freight and Ports Plan 2018–2023 (TfNSW 2018d) offers opportunities for reducing environmental impacts of freight transport to and at NSW ports. This is being achieved through measures such as:

  • working with industry to reduce noise from locomotives
  • continuing treatment of affected houses under the Freight Noise Attenuation Program
  • supporting the use of electric vehicles
  • improving accountability for environmental performance in the rail freight industry
  • advocating for stronger national vehicle emissions standards
  • encouraging the use of safer, cleaner and more productive vehicles.

Improving the efficiency of the freight network will have positive environmental impacts. The plan includes measures to improve the capacity of the freight rail network and optimise rail productivity for transporting freight to and from Port Botany.

COVID-19: challenges and opportunities

COVID-19 has drastically changed how people work and travel, with many now working from home and travelling less. Although the pandemic has presented many challenges, some huge opportunities have also arisen to provide a quick response to changing customer needs.

Any given challenge usually presents a range of potential solutions. For example, road congestion can be addressed by:

  • encouraging mode shift to public transport
  • deploying smart road infrastructure to manage congestion ‘hot spots’
  • encouraging road users to re-time discretionary travel.

Major infrastructure projects improve the capacity and performance of the transport network. They play an integral role in the NSW Government’s COVID Recovery Plan, to ensure that NSW will remain resilient with a future proof economy.

The NSW government is prioritising more agile service, policy and demand management solutions and aims to incorporate integrated technology and digital and data solutions in all infrastructure investments, so fixed assets can be used in ways that match, respond to and meet demand. This enables a better response to dynamic customer needs, makes the most out of existing assets and improves levels of service without significant capital investment.

Future Transport 2056 is designed to deliver major investments according to performance-based or needs-based ‘triggers’ rather than rigid timeframes. This flips the emphasis from infrastructure provision and capital investment to more nimble non-infrastructure responses, which deliver flexible solutions when there is uncertainty over long-term infrastructure needs (TfNSW 2018a).


Public transport

People are more likely to use public transport where services are frequent, reliable and convenient.

Public transport use is encouraged with apps that provide real-time information about timetables and service disruptions. This reduces the wait for services, advises on the fastest route, shows door-to-door options and is just one of a range of initiatives to meet projected demand and encourage people to use public transport.

More Trains, More Services

This program will simplify and modernise the rail network creating high capacity, turn up and go services. It means customers can expect more frequent and reliable train services with less wait times and less crowding. More Trains, More Services has delivered more than 1,700 additional weekly services since 2017 and is currently improving the Eastern Suburbs and Illawarra Line, Airport and South Line and South Coast Line. Each day, more than 410,000 customers travel on these lines, almost one-third of all Sydney Trains customers.

Digital Systems

The Digital Systems Program will replace current signalling and train control technology with modern, internationally proven, intelligent systems. It will help improve reliability, increase capacity and enhance customer experience on Sydney’s railways.

On-demand services

These flexible public transport services aim to improve connections to transport hubs and popular destinations like shopping centres or hospitals. Transport for NSW has delivered 23 on-demand public transport trials and four permanent services across the state, providing more than 1.1 million customer journeys.

Sydney Metro

Sydney Metro is the city’s new stand-alone railway system. Sydney Metro North West opened in 2019 with high frequency turn up and go services. This line is currently being extended under the harbour to the Sydney CBD and onwards along the existing south-western line to Bankstown. Two more metro lines are proposed: Sydney Metro West from Parramatta to the CBD and Sydney Metro Western Sydney Airport.

By 2030, the network will be expanded to include 46 stations with over 113 kilometres of metro track. Sydney’s metro railway has a target carrying capacity of 40,000 customers per hour, similar to other metro systems worldwide. By comparison, the city’s current suburban system can reliably move 24,000 people an hour per line.

Light rail

Opened in 2020, CBD and South East Light Rail connects Circular Quay to Randwick and Kingsford. The 12-kilometre route is designed to create easy interchange points with other transport modes. The light rail significantly increases public transport capacity, carrying up to 450 passengers a service, equivalent to nine standard buses.

The Newcastle Light Rail line opened in February 2019 and connects the Newcastle Interchange in the inner-city suburb of Wickham with Newcastle Beach in the city’s east end. The line has six designated stations through the Newcastle CBD and has the capacity to transport 1,200 people per hour.

The Parramatta Light Rail will connect Westmead to Carlingford via the Parramatta CBD and Camellia with a two-way track spanning 12 kilometres, and is scheduled to open in 2023. It is expected to remove 25,000 cars from roads by 2041 and will lead to more than 3,500 trees being planted in Parramatta streets that are most susceptible to heat. In June 2021, the NSW Government committed $50 million towards planning, utilities and geotechnical investigations, as well as progressing the development of the project’s Environmental Impact Statement.

New Intercity rail fleet

New, state-of-the art intercity trains named 'Mariyung’ (the Darug word for ‘emu’) will deliver services from Sydney to final Lithgow, Newcastle and Kiama. The 62-train fleet with 610 new carriages will replace the aged V-Set trains still running on the electrified network. Mariyung trains have been designed and manufactured with consideration for climate resilience and efficiency, including energy-saving LED lighting and display screens; lightweight lithium polymer batteries chosen for reduced maintenance and long life; and rubber seals with increased material integrity to withstand temperature increases.

Wharf upgrade program

The Wharf upgrade program will see ferry wharves upgraded to provide accessible, modern, secure and integrated transport infrastructure across the state. Almost 90% of journeys begin from locations accessible to people with a disability, those with limited mobility and parents with prams (TfNSW 2021e). Other upgrades have been undertaken to support an integrated transport network and seamless transfers for all customers.

Regional Rail

The Regional Rail program is replacing the ageing NSW fleet of XPT, XPLORER and Endeavour trains with a fleet of 29 new sets, comprising 117 carriages to form 10 regional intercity, nine short regional and 10 long regional trains.

Bi-mode technology will be introduced to the new regional rail fleet, the first in Australia to use the technology. Bi-mode is a diesel-electric hybrid which will allow the fleet to run on overhead power when operating on the electrified section of the train network. The first new trains are expected to be running from 2023, with the full fleet coming into service progressively.

The Mindyarra Maintenance Centre is being built in Dubbo to support the new fleet, stimulate the regional economy and help create sustainable job opportunities and skills. Mindyarra is a Wiradjuri word which means to ‘fix or repair', to represent the work that will be done at the new maintenance facility. The design of the centre will incorporate sustainable operational solutions such as solar power and the use of non-potable water.

Walking and cycling

The NSW Government’s Future Transport 2056 (TfNSW 2018a) describes walking and cycling (active transport) as the most convenient option for short trips around local areas. It emphasises that the 30-minute city will encourage people to walk, cycle or catch public transport. In NSW over 1.1 billion trips a year are made on foot or by bicycle, including around 600 million trips associated with a public transport journey.

Weekly cycling participation in NSW for males (19.6%) is substantially higher than for females (11.2%) (CWANZ 2021), and males make up 80% of adults who cycle for commuting purposes. Bicycle paths and separated cycle lanes are likely to be important for increasing transportation cycling among under-represented population groups such as women.

In NSW in 2021, 15.4% of residents ride a bicycle in a typical week, which is below the national average of 18% (CWANZ 2021). Weekly cycling participation is slightly higher in regional NSW (16.2%) compared to the Sydney GMA (14.9%).

Walking and cycling for commuting and short trips relieve pressure on our roads and public transport networks and are part of a healthy lifestyle for our communities (TfNSW 2021d).

Active transport projects include:

  • pop-up transport in response to COVID-19, giving people more options to travel safely. More than 28 kilometres of additional cycleways have been rolled out in City of Sydney, Inner West, Parramatta, Randwick, Newcastle, Batemans Bay and Nowra local government areas. Additionally, a new underground concourse at Sydney’s Central Station will improve connections between trains, buses, light rail and the new Sydney Metro
  • the Cooks to Cove GreenWay which will link the Cooks River walking and cycling path to the Bay Run at Iron Cove and enhance native vegetation along the corridor. This is expected to be completed in 2024
  • the proposed ramp upgrade for access to the northern side of the Sydney Harbour Bridge cycleway which aims to improve the safety and capacity of the cycleway and connections to the wider bike network, and make the ride convenient and attractive for more people

The Walking and Cycling Program outlines how the State government will work with councils to make walking and cycling a more convenient, safe and enjoyable transport option. Key objectives of its Walking and Cycling Program are to:

  • ensure walking and cycling are the most convenient options for short trips and key destinations within centres
  • reduce congestion on roads and public transport networks by encouraging the shift to walking and cycling
  • enable efficient, safe and reliable journey times with infrastructure that supports pedestrian or cycling movement, deliver projects that make walking and cycling safe, comfortable, convenient and accessible to a wide range of users, for example the bi-directional bicycle and pedestrian paths along the southern edge of Queens Park adjacent to Darley Road, Randwick.

The program is focused on projects that will help prioritise delivery of Future Transport 2056 (TfNSW 2018a) and the regional NSW and Greater Sydney Services and Infrastructure plans.

The Providing for Walking and Cycling in Transport Projects Policy also requires every transport project funded by Transport for NSW to include provision for walking and cycling within the core scope of the project.

The program’s projects will prioritise delivery of Future Transport 2056 and the regional NSW and Greater Sydney Services and Infrastructure Plans.

Delivering the Sydney Green Grid is an objective of the Greater Sydney Region Plan: A metropolis of three cities, which will improve access to green space across the Greater Sydney region in the coming decades. It will encourage active transport with cycling and walking paths to provide alternative means of access to suburban centres and open space, such as parks and ovals.

Other NSW government strategies that encourage the use of active transport include:

Fuel and vehicle emissions

Key initiatives to reduce emissions include vapour recovery technology at service stations, limiting petrol volatility in summer, and advocating for improved national vehicle emission and fuel standards. See also the responses in the Air Quality topic.

Reducing overall transport demand through integrated land-use planning is an important step in reducing vehicle emissions. Using a more sustainable transport fleet (such as the new electric-diesel bi-modal regional rail fleet) and transitioning to low-carbon fuels or electricity that is sustainably generated are also initiatives to reduce emissions and noise.

The NSW Electric Vehicle Strategy aims to accelerate the state’s vehicle fleet of the future. It outlines the government’s commitments to increasing the uptake of electric vehicles to ensure NSW shares in the benefits. Key actions include:

  • rebates for new electric vehicle purchases
  • phase out of stamp duty for electric vehicle purchases
  • fleet incentives to help local councils and businesses buy electric vehicles
  • building a world-class electric vehicle charging network
  • regional tourism benefits.

Planning is underway for the transition of the NSW bus fleet to zero emissions buses to achieve net zero emissions by 2050. The Zero Emissions Bus Transition Strategy sets out a response to the challenge to transition the NSW bus fleet to zero emissions by 2030 and establishes a pathway to achieve this. Key benefits include

  • health and environmental benefits from reduced emissions and better air quality
  • reduced noise, especially in urban areas
  • potential boost to the NSW economy with significant regional industry development opportunities
  • smarter technology for greater safety and efficiency on our roads.

The NSW Government has also announced plans to cut emissions from the Sydney Rail network to net zero by 2025, starting with offsetting all emissions from stations' electricity usage by 2022.


Strategies for reducing the impacts of roads and related infrastructure during construction, operation and maintenance include:

  • minimising the use of non-renewable resources
  • recycling construction materials to divert waste from landfill
  • managing erosion and sediment during construction works
  • protecting biodiversity through Environmental Impact Assessments
  • implementing features, such as fauna fencing and fauna crossings (Biosis 2016)
  • reducing energy use and greenhouse gas emissions through LED traffic lights.

The Smart Motorways program uses technology to reduce congestion and improve air quality. The M4 Smart Motorway (Lapstone to Mays Hill) which opened in December 2020 is the first fully ‘smart’ motorway in NSW. It uses real time information, communication and smart traffic management systems that work together to smooth the flow of traffic, ease congestion, efficiently manage incidents and improve road safety. Less stop-start traffic reduces fuel consumption and carbon dioxide emissions. Some individual elements of the technology are already in place on other Sydney roads, including the Sydney Harbour Bridge, M7, M8 and NorthConnex motorways.

New roads

Urban road projects can help relieve congestion, reduce noise and improve air quality by diverting traffic away from local roads. Improved travel times can also reduce emissions, provided increased use does not cancel out these gains.

Air quality within major NSW tunnels is continuously monitored to control the ventilation system. This ensures the strict air quality limits outlined in the approval conditions are always complied with. The ventilation outlets of all motorway tunnels in NSW need an Environmental Protection Licence which require tunnel operators to meet air quality limits and undertake air quality monitoring.

Completed and new roads under construction in Sydney include the following:

  • NorthConnex, a nine-kilometre tunnel motorway which opened to traffic in 2020, links the M1 Pacific Highway at Wahroonga to the Hills Motorway at West Pennant Hills and takes around 5,000 trucks off Pennant Hills Road every day.
  • The WestConnex program of works, when complete in 2023, will link western and south-western Sydney with the CBD and airport. Comprising 33 kilometres of motorway, it will improve connections between industrial, commercial and residential areas by creating road network links between the Sydney and Parramatta CBDs.
  • The Sydney Gateway project will connect the WestConnex St Peters Interchange to the Airport and Port Botany Precinct. With the capacity to carry 100,000 vehicles a day, it will generate more than $10 billion in economic activity and handle close to $100 billion in freight each year.
  • The M6 Motorway program of works is a proposed multi-lane road link that aims to provide better connectivity to Sydney’s south and will be delivered in three stages. Stage 1 will deliver the missing link from Sydney’s south to the wider Sydney motorway network and will remove more than 2,000 trucks a day from surface roads, returning local streets to communities.
  • The M12 is a new 16-kilometre motorway in Western Sydney connecting the M7 Motorway and The Northern Road. It will link to the new Western Sydney International Airport and support the economic development of the Western Sydney Aerotropolis and new city of Bradfield.

Managing freight-related noise

Transport for NSW’s Strategic Noise Action Plan manages the impact of freight-related noise by applying three approaches:

  • working with operators on the standards for, and maintenance of, rolling stock
  • ensuring all vehicles meet freight wagon steering standards which aim to significantly reduce wheel squeal
  • tracking noise from freight trains at seven permanent wayside noise monitoring locations.

The plan also addresses the use of planning controls and building regulations to minimise development in new locations acutely affected by rail noise. Transport for NSW uses data from the permanent noise monitors to establish long-term noise trends and impacts at properties near freight rail lines.

The Freight Noise Attenuation Program is designed to reduce rail noise at homes along freight rail corridors between Nowra and Newcastle and west to Lithgow. The program identifies homes eligible for noise mitigation measures, including upgraded windows, solid external doors and enhanced ventilation. The program, which began in July 2015, has treated around 780 properties and aims to treat another 200 more per year before it ends in 2025.


In 2019, NSW Ports introduced levy discounts at Port Botany and Port Kembla to provide an incentive for vessels to reduce their emissions beyond standards set by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) (NSW Ports 2021). NSW Ports is working with logistics operators to increase transportation of containers by rail – resulting in operational efficiencies, reduced road congestion and lower emissions.

Port Kembla has become a crucial gateway for supply of imported cement to support construction. Since the first journey of cement clinker to Parramatta in 2018, the volume of cement transported by rail has averaged approximately 350 rail wagons per month, saving about 4,200 truck movements on the roads of the Illawarra and Southern Sydney (NSW Ports 2021).

Port operations, both vessel and land based at White Bay and Glebe Island, are 24 hour. Analysis of noise monitoring data from cruise ship visits has found that noise levels have, at times, exceeded the noise criteria set under Condition D1 of the Project Approval. In January 2021, Port Authority of NSW implemented the Port Noise Policy and Protocol for Glebe Island and White Bay.

To keep the community informed about air quality levels, Port Authority operate air quality monitoring stations that provide real-time data. Continued monitoring air quality during 2020–21 indicated local air quality levels improved in the absence of cruise ships.

Future opportunities

One of the most striking lifestyle changes to emerge in response to COVID-19 has been 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 hubs, such as the Sydney CBD, Parramatta CBD and Chatswood, while increasing activity in local centres.

An increase in working from home could widen the choice of where people live, including further from their place of work. These patterns will also feel the effect of changing demographics, with a likely slower population growth in NSW in the short term. The State government is actively monitoring these trends and collecting data to inform planning to manage the longer-term impacts of the pandemic.

Automated vehicles are currently being trialled in Australia and have the capacity to revolutionise all aspects of our travel, from the need to own a private car at all, to the safety and reliability of mass transit. It is currently uncertain how automated vehicles will integrate into the existing transport network, but governments will have an important role to play in shaping their use (IA 2020).The NSW Government seeks to minimise the environmental impacts of the transport system across all stages of the asset life cycle and identify innovative ways to assess and realise the environmental and social benefits of transport networks. Future opportunities for investigation include (TfNSW 2018a, Future Transport 2056, Transport for NSW, Sydney):

  • developing programs to encourage a shift from the use of private cars to walking, cycling, ride-sharing and public transport
  • working with industry partners on new low- or zero-emission vehicle technologies and support the transition to low-emission heavy and commercial vehicles as well as passenger vehicles
  • transitioning to a cost-effective, low-emission energy supply for the public transport system and its operators
  • exploring opportunities to improve the energy efficiency of transport operations
  • investigating options to leverage power purchase agreements to support the transition towards a cost-effective, low-emission energy supply for the transport network (including heavy rail, metro rail, light rail and other infrastructure)
  • investigating the feasibility of conducting hydrogen fuel cell train trials for the South Coast Line between Port Kembla and Kiama.

The NSW Government will consider resilience, including climate resilience, in the planning and design of all assets and services. A climate change risk assessment will be developed for assets as part of a whole-of-life impact assessment when developing projects.

United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

The State government is committed to delivering a transport system that is environmentally, economically and socially sustainable. This approach aligns with Australia’s commitment to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, which cover areas such as:

  • developing quality, reliable, sustainable and resilient infrastructure
  • providing access to safe, affordable, accessible and sustainable transport
  • taking action to reduce emissions, support climate change science research, build resilience and reduce additional pressures on systems affected by climate change.