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SoE 2009 > Human Settlement > 3.3 Transport

Chapter 3: Human Settlement

3.3 Transport

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Human Settlement

3.3 Transport

The proportion of people in Sydney using public transport for travel to and from work has increased from about 21% to more than 24%, the highest proportion of any Australian capital city. Public transport was used for 77% of commuter trips to and from the Sydney CBD during peak hours in 2007. At the same time, motor vehicle distance travelled, trip numbers and trip lengths have increased in line with population growth.

The use of motor vehicles for people and freight movements has continued to grow. Population and economic growth have fuelled the growth in travel.

In Sydney, over 1999–2007, the increase in vehicle kilometres travelled slowed below the long-term trend. Around 25% of vehicle driver trips (on an average day) are less than two kilometres in length, suggesting opportunities to encourage active transport options for private travel.

Car numbers in New South Wales are increasing faster than the population and in line with gross state product, but the rate of growth eased slightly in 2005 and 2006. However, 53.3% of the energy consumed as fuel by the state's domestic transport sector was from the use of road passenger vehicles.

The NSW Government is working towards the integrated land-use and transport goals outlined in State Plan 2006 through a number of initiatives targeting bus and rail services, and walking and cycling.

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NSW indicators

Indicator and status


Information availability

Public transport use (overall and trips)



Vehicle kilometres travelled (total and per person)



Mode of transport to work (Sydney only)



Energy consumption per transport output

No change


Transport energy consumption (total)



Notes: Terms and symbols used above are defined in About SoE 2009 at the front of the report.

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Transport involves the movement of people and freight. It provides access to jobs, education, markets, leisure and other services, and thus plays a key role in the economy. However, travel has environmental impacts as it consumes significant amounts of non-renewable resources, especially fossil fuels, produces greenhouse gas emissions, and generates air pollution that has impacts on the environment and human health. Runoff from roads affects water quality, and road construction can affect biodiversity by fragmenting natural ecosystems.

These impacts can be reduced through the increased use of public and active transport. Public transport produces relatively low emissions and low impacts when compared with car use by the same number of people.

The various forms of transport, such as truck, car, train, bus, ferry, tram, bicycle and walking, are termed 'modes'. This section addresses trends in transport use in Sydney, detailing private vehicle and public transport use, freight transport, and fuel consumption in the transport industry.

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Status and trends

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Overview of transport in NSW

Across NSW the majority of people and freight movements are by road. Total road kilometres travelled for all vehicle types has increased steadily by an average of about one billion kilometres per year over the past decade, although the rate of growth has slowed more recently (BITRE 2009). Rail patronage has grown on the metropolitan network but declined across the rest of the state where domestic air travel has increased (RailCorp 2008).

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Travel patterns in Sydney

In 2007, Sydney residents made 16.3 million trips each weekday. This was an increase of 2.0% from 2006 (itself an increase of 1.2% from 2005), and a change from the slowing growth between 2002 and 2005.

Travel trends in Sydney indicate that, on average between 1999 and 2007, total weekday trips grew by 0.9% per annum, total distance travelled on all modes on weekdays increased by 0.8% (below the average annual population growth of 0.9%) and annual average 'VKT' (vehicle kilometres travelled) grew 0.5% (Figure 3.12).

On shorter time scales, total trips and VKT have exhibited roughly similar, though fluctuating, trends. Other than a slight dip in VKT in 2001, in 2005 the number of total trips and VKT both fell, with VKT falling faster, for the first time since 1999, and in 2006 both rose again. In 2007, VKT fell while total trips rose. This mostly parallel movement of total trips and VKT is primarily driven by the fact that the majority of trips are by private vehicle.

In 2007, Sydney residents travelled a total of 132 million kilometres on an average weekday. Distance travelled was somewhat static from 2002 to 2005, but there was a resumption in growth from 2005 to 2006 which saw the largest rise since 1999–2000. Between 1999 and 2007, VKT also grew by about 4.4% from a weekday average of 72.0 million kilometres to about 75.2 million kilometres. For each of the three years 2005–07, the average weekday VKT was about one million kilometres per day below the average during the previous three years of 76.2 million kilometres each weekday. As such, growth in VKT is below the nine-year trend.

Private vehicle ownership has risen in conjunction with rising gross state product since 1999. However, between 2005 and 2006, growth in private vehicle ownership eased. In 2007, the number of vehicles per household rose slightly to 1.49 (up from 1.48 in 2005 and 2006).

The distance travelled on public transport has been increasing, particularly on trains. After six years of little change from 1999 to 2004, distance travelled on trains grew by an average of 6.9% per year from 2005 to 2007 (NSWTI 2009).

Figure 3.12: Travel by Sydney residents on an average weekday, 1999–2007

Figure 3.12

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Source: NSWTI 2009

Notes: Year estimates are based on three years of pooled data. For example, the 2007 calendar year estimate uses data collected from July 2005 to June 2008 weighted to the 'Estimated Resident Population' issued by the Australian Bureau of Statistics for June 2007.

Transport modes

The use of various transport modes on an average weekday in Sydney has increased at a slow, fairly constant rate since 1999 (Figure 3.13). In recent years, weekday train trips grew at a faster rate (3.4% in 2005, 2.7% in 2006, 5.9% in 2007) than the annual average growth rate for this mode (1.4% for 1999–2007) (NSWTI 2009). Train trips also had the largest growth of all modes in 2006 and 2007. In contrast, bus trips have grown at the slowest rate of all the modes, although there was a 4.3% increase from 2006 to 2007. Walking as a form of transport has increased steadily since 1999, growing by nearly the same amount as train trips, and now represents close to 18% of average weekday trips.

Figure 3.13: Number of trips in Sydney by mode on an average weekday, 1999–2007

Figure 3.13

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Source: NSWTI 2009

Notes: Year estimates are based on three years of pooled data (see notes to Figure 3.12 for details).
'Other modes' includes taxis, ferries and bicycles.

The proportion of trips using private vehicles has varied by less than 1.5% since 2000, with the proportion for driver trips the lowest at 47.6% in 2007. The proportion of passenger trips remained at 20–21% over the nine-year period. Sydney residents tend to use cars for longer trips, with approximately 48% of trips by drivers representing about 58% of the total distance travelled on an average weekday (NSWTI 2009).

Trains also tend to be used for longer trips, with train trips accounting for a larger percentage of total distance (13.2% for 2007) than of total trips (5.1%). Walking trips, not surprisingly, comprised a much smaller proportion of distance travelled (2.0%) compared with their 17.9% share of total trips in 2007. The distance travelled by bus (4.8%) was less than the proportion of trips by bus (5.7%) (NSWTI 2009).

Purpose of travel

Since 1999, trips for recreational purposes comprised the highest proportion of all weekday trips (Figure 3.14). Recreational trips, as well as trips commuting to and from work, showed the fastest growth between 1999 and 2007, expanding by an average of 1.5% annually, closely followed by serve-passenger trips, which are trips to drop off, pick up or accompany someone (1.3% average annual growth).

However in 2007, trips to and from work comprised the highest share of distance travelled (27.4%) followed by recreational trips (20.1%). Commuting trips to and from work have accounted for at least one-quarter of total kilometres travelled in each year since 1999 (NSWTI 2009).

Figure 3.14: Proportion of trips in Sydney by purpose on an average weekday, 1999–2007

Figure 3.14

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Source: NSWTI 2009

Notes: Year estimates are based on three years of pooled data (see notes to Figure 3.12 for details).

Purpose of travel by mode

In 2007, as in previous years, private vehicles continued to be the most frequently used mode for all trips (NSWTI 2009). At over 85%, car use was highest for serve-passenger trips and work-related trips (Figure 3.15). For commutes to work, car use was also sizeable (just over two-thirds of all trips), but public transport (train, bus and ferry) usage was also high (nearly one-quarter). Compared with other purposes, private vehicle use was lowest (56%) and public transport use highest (26%) for educational trips. The share of 'other modes' (mainly walking) is largest for recreational and shopping trips (both around 30%).

Some changes in transport choice are evident between 1999 and 2007. During this time, the proportion of public transport use grew for commuting to work and work-related trips, while all other purposes had a declining share of public transport. Commuting by public transport increased by 3.7%, while commuting by car decreased 5.2%. Car use for recreational purposes was also down. Compared with 1999, the greatest increase in car use in 2007 was for educational and childcare trips (up 8.2%).

Figure 3.15: Proportion of trips in Sydney by purpose and mode on an average weekday, 1999 and 2007

Figure 3.15

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Source: NSWTI 2009

Notes: Year estimates are based on three years of pooled data (see notes to Figure 3.12 for details).
'Other modes' is predominantly walking, cycling and taxis.

In Sydney an average of 75% of the population can access the city or a major centre within 30 minutes by public transport, although this varies over subregions (NSW Government 2009b). State Plan 2006: A new direction for NSW has prioritised this as needing further improvement (Priority E5) (NSW Government 2006a).

In 2007 public transport was used for 77.0% of commuter trips to and from the Sydney CBD during peak hours (Figure 3.16), exceeding the 2015–16 State Plan 2006 target. In 2007, 24.2% of residents across the Sydney metropolitan region used public transport (train, bus and ferry) to commute to and from work, close to the 2015–16 target. This represents a third year of growth in public transport's share of commuter trips for the metropolitan area, which had been steady at 20.1–21.2% for the previous six years.

Around 23% of vehicle driver trips on an average day are less than two kilometres in length (NSWTI data 2009), which provides opportunities for the further development of transport options for private travel.

Figure 3.16: Proportion of journeys to work in Sydney by public transport, 1999–2007

Figure 3.16

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Source: NSWTI data 2009

Notes: Year estimates are based on three years of pooled data (see notes to Figure 3.12 for details).
'Other modes' is predominantly walking, cycling and taxis.

Travel time

In order to gauge the efficiency of vehicle transport on Sydney roads, the Roads and Traffic Authority regularly calculates travel times for a sample of major routes to and from Sydney as part of State Plan 2006 (NSW Government 2006a). Travel speeds provide an indication of the congestion on roads.

Peak travel speeds averaged across the seven major routes into Sydney have remained fairly constant since 2003, despite growth in traffic volume (Figure 3.17). Average speeds during the morning peak period have slowed slightly, while speeds in the afternoon peak have improved marginally. The highest average speed in both peak periods is 43 kilometres per hour, which is significantly lower than the speed limits on those roads.

Figure 3.17: Average speed for seven major routes to and from Sydney, 1995–96 to 2007–08

Figure 3.17

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Source: RTA 2009

Public transport patronage

Public transport patronage tends to track that of the population with peaks and troughs mostly reflecting those of the economic cycle. Public transport patronage for Sydney from 1980–81 to 2007–08, especially the overall patronage of the Government bus services (Sydney Buses), has remained stable (Figure 3.18). The CityRail network, which is bounded by Dungog, Scone, Lithgow, Goulburn and Bomaderry, has had an increase in patronage, consistent with population growth, with an exceptional peak during the 2000 Olympics.

Figure 3.18: Patronage of Sydney Buses and CityRail, 1980–81 to 2007–08

Figure 3.18

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Source: STA Annual Reports; RailCorp Annual Reports; ABS data

Notes: Sydney Buses data covers the bus contract regions of northern Sydney, northern beaches, eastern suburbs and inner western Sydney. Data includes private bus services on the Liverpool–Parramatta Transitway from February 2004, as well as the takeover of private services in the west and north-west. Sydney Buses provides approximately 62% of all bus trips in the Sydney Statistical Division on an average weekday (NSWTI 2009).

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Freight transport in NSW

Domestic freight grew to 70.4 billion tonne-kilometres in 2006–07. On average about 56% of domestic freight is carried by road and about 31% by rail. Sea transport increased its share to the highest level since 2000–01 (Figure 3.19).

The state's major gas and oil urban pipeline network transported 5.2 million tonnes of gas, oil and other petroleum products in 2006–07. Pipelines continued to maintain their share of NSW freight at about 4% (ACG 2009).

Figure 3.19: Domestic freight transport by mode in NSW

Figure 3.19

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Source: ACG 2009, Table 3.1–9, Table 3.2–5, Table 3.3–4, Table 3.4–1, Table 3.5–1

Notes: Includes interstate freight movements, but not international freight movements.

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Energy consumption

Energy consumed in servicing the state's domestic transport (both freight and passenger) totalled 390 petajoules (PJ) (on a full fuel cycle basis, including pipelines) in 2006–07 (Figure 3.20). International shipping and aviation amounts to an additional 431 PJ (ACG 2009). Of the energy on a full fuel cycle basis used by domestic transport in 2006–07, 53.3% was used by road passenger vehicles (a drop of about 2.2% compared with the average of the previous three years), 30.8% by other road vehicles, 7.6% by air, 6.0% by rail, 0.70% by sea and 0.56% by non-urban pipelines (ACG 2009).

Road, rail, air, sea and pipelines

The domestic transport sector has steadily increased its fuel consumption since 1994–95 (Figure 3.20). Transport by road has dominated energy consumption and transport by air is increasing its energy consumption.

Figure 3.20: Energy consumed in the domestic NSW transport sector by mode

Figure 3.20

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Source: ACG 2009, Table 4.1.1-2, Table 4.1.2-10, Table 4.1.3-2, Table 4.1.4-1, Table 4.1.5-1

Notes: Includes interstate transport movements (both freight and passenger), but not international movements.

Increased fuel prices during the latter part of 2004–05 largely contributed to the decline in fuel consumed by road vehicles (ACG 2007, p.17), and the total fuel consumed that year was equivalent to 330.3 PJ. Road energy use has been almost static (at around 330–335 PJ per year) for the five years to 2006–07. Figure 3.21 shows the proportion of fuel use by road transport for 2006–07 on a full fuel cycle basis.

Since the 1980s fuel efficiency by road vehicles in NSW has improved by about 5% for all petrol vehicles and nearly 20% for diesel vehicles (ACG 2009, Table 4.1.1-3). However, there has been little improvement over the past decade, with efficiencies in 2006–07 close to the average for the 10 years since 1997–98 (ACG 2009, Table 4.1.1-3).

Figure 3.21: Energy used by NSW road transport, 2006–07

Figure 3.21

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Source: ACG 2009, Table 4.1.1-2

NSW light and heavy rail used 14.6 PJ of primary energy on a full fuel cycle basis in 2004–05. Freight and heavy rail passenger services constituted 68.8% and 30.8% of NSW rail energy consumption, respectively, with ancillary and light rail services accounting for the remaining 0.4%. The rail industry's reliance on electricity as a fuel source has grown since 1994–95 and equals 20.4% of energy used in 2004–05, with diesel the other fuel source at 79.6%. Despite expected energy efficiency gains, growth in demand for rail services is projected to result in annual direct energy consumption growing by 3.1 PJ (31%) by 2014–15 (ACG 2007).

Substantial growth in demand for domestic air services contributed to the increase in direct fuel consumption by 5.2% to 21.1 PJ in 2004–05. The projected demand for domestic aviation services and expected increases in energy efficiencies suggest that the annual direct energy expended by domestic air services (on a business-as-usual basis) may grow by 4.2 PJ to 25.3 PJ in 2014–15.

The full fuel cycle energy consumed by Australian and foreign vessels servicing NSW domestic shipping is estimated to have grown by 0.6 PJ to 4.1 PJ in 2004–05. Fuel oil supplied to shipping in NSW ('domestic bunkers') grew by 0.9 PJ to 2.6 PJ during 2004–05 (excluding fuel required by the defence forces). The industry's reliance on fuel oil in the movement of all freight grew to 78.2% of total direct energy consumption.

Annual direct fuel expended by domestic shipping is forecast to grow by 12.9% to 4.1 PJ in 2014–15, reflecting expected gains in fuel efficiency and a projected growth in domestic use.

During 2004–05, non-urban gas and liquid petroleum pipelines transported 2.0 PJ, an increase of 0.01 PJ, largely due to a 1% growth in energy used to transport crude oil. Natural gas pipelines now transport 39.7% of total energy, compared with 25.2% a decade ago, reflecting the growing dominance of natural gas in NSW. Natural gas is the only fuel transported by non-urban gas pipelines, while electricity constitutes 93.4% of the energy expended in the operation of crude oil, gas, and product pipelines.

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Transport pressures that affect the environment include:

  • the distance that people travel to their place of work or essential facilities
  • the mode of transport used or the number of travellers using a transport option
  • transport technology and fuel efficiency
  • fuel prices
  • availability and quality of public transport, or pedestrian and cycling facilities.

These pressures influence the amount of fuel consumed and the volume of emissions created, which directly affect the environment.

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Integrated land-use and transport planning

State Plan 2006: A new direction for NSW (NSW Government 2006a) has identified the increased use of public transport as a priority. Plan targets include:

  • 'To increase the percentage of the population living within 30 minutes by public transport of a city or major centre in Greater Metropolitan Sydney' (under Priority E5)
  • 'To increase the share of trips made by public transport to and from the Sydney CBD during peak hours to 75% by 2016' (Priority S6)
  • 'To increase the proportion of total journeys to work by public transport in the Sydney metropolitan region to 25% by 2016' (Priority S6).

The useability of public transport is also enhanced by improvements to traffic flow, which is in the State Plan target 'To improve the efficiency of the road network during peak times as measured by travel speeds and volumes on Sydney's major road corridors' under Priority E7. State Plan 2006 therefore has significant implications for the integration of land use and transport.

A review of State Plan 2006 commenced in August 2009 and this may adjust some of the plan's priorities and targets.

The purpose of integrated land-use and transport planning is to reduce dependence on cars by improving access to public transport, walking and cycling; providing facilities nearby to reduce travel distances; and encouraging multipurpose trips, which reduces the total number of trips.

The recently established agency NSW Transport and Infrastructure (NSWTI) is preparing a Transport Blueprint, which should be completed by the end of 2009, that will link land-use and transport planning, inform infrastructure investment priorities, assist public sector budgeting and create certainty for private investment. The blueprint will comprise a vision for NSW transport connectivity in 2036 and beyond, a description of the transport system and the planning framework, an analysis of challenges, strategies and actions, and a governance and implementation framework.

The Integrated Land Use and Transport Policy Package continues to provide a framework for NSW Government agencies, councils and developers to integrate land-use and transport planning at regional and local levels.

A focus of the Metropolitan Strategy: City of Cities – A plan for Sydney's future (DoP 2005) and supporting draft subregional strategies is to integrate land-use and transport planning by concentrating housing and employment in local and strategic centres in order to improve access to public transport, thereby reducing the growing number of trips by motor vehicles and improving air quality. The strategy also recognises the need to manage noise and air quality impacts of transport through strategic planning at the local level and consider separating sensitive land uses from significant emission sources, such as industry and arterial roads.

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Redirecting freight from road to rail

The Government has committed to increasing the proportion of freight carried to and from Port Botany by rail from 20% to 40%, through development of additional intermodal terminals at Enfield, Moorebank and Eastern Creek. This is in addition to the Southern Sydney Freight Line which will provide a dedicated rail line for freight between Macarthur and Sefton.

Work is also under way to identify the improvements required on the rail line between North Strathfield and Broadmeadow to provide additional capacity. The Australian Government has already announced $840 million towards those works.

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Traffic congestion

Alternative transport is important in reducing congestion on the roads. During the 2007–08 financial year, the Roads and Traffic Authority (RTA) increased the length of bus and transit lanes to nearly 200 kilometres and increased the total length of off-road cycleways to almost 1500 km (RTA 2008).

Intersection and corridor improvements are being made through the Network Management (or Pinch Point) Strategy, which targets peak hour traffic 'hot spots' in 23 corridors in Sydney (NSW Premier 2006).

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Public transport

Bus initiatives

To improve bus services, Government agencies have been implementing a range of key strategic initiatives which arose from the 2004 Review of Bus Services in New South Wales (NSW Government 2004a), including:

  • a network of strategic bus corridors across metropolitan Sydney
  • integrated bus networks, with improved services across metropolitan Sydney
  • planning for outer-metropolitan networks and the North-west Transitway commencing by the end of 2009.

Measures to give buses priority in traffic, including bus lanes and traffic signals giving them right-of-way at intersections, are being implemented in critical areas along strategic corridors to improve service reliability and reduce journey times. Satellite tracking of buses is being linked to the RTA's traffic management system to give priority at traffic signals to buses which are running late.

Just over 200 new and replacement buses were added to the Sydney metropolitan fleet in 2007–08. The Government has allocated $170 million over two years for an additional 300 buses from 2009, and $115 million for a further 150 articulated buses. The Government has also announced a major expansion across Sydney of the trial of higher capacity Metrobuses, with four additional Metrobus routes to be introduced by the end of 2010.

In 2008, the Government introduced a free shuttle bus service in the Sydney CBD. A similar initiative also commenced in Wollongong in March 2009, connecting the University of Wollongong, Wollongong Innovation Campus and Wollongong city centre.

Rail initiatives

Improvements to CityRail's reliability since 2005 have coincided with recent increases in patronage. During 2007–08, patronage grew 5.2%, significantly higher than the 2.5% required to meet the State Plan 2006 target for public transport use.

A significant investment in rolling stock is being undertaken with 626 new carriages being constructed for the Sydney network. These are in addition to the 122 outer suburban cars ('OSCARS') that began to enter service in 2007–08 and 14 new Hunter Rail cars. Another $370 million has been allocated to purchase more OSCARS.

The Epping to Chatswood rail line opened in February 2009, providing direct passenger rail access for the first time to the growing North Ryde–Macquarie Park area of Sydney.

The Government has committed to the CBD Metro as the start of a new public transport network for Sydney. Initially running between Central and Rozelle, construction is planned to commence in 2010 with Sydney's first Metro trains to be operating by 2015. The NSW and Australian Governments have jointly funded a feasibility study into a second Metro running from the Parramatta area to the CBD via Central station.

The Government's Parking Space Levy is intended to discourage car use in business districts by imposing a levy on off-street commercial and office parking spaces. From the revenue raised, $56 million has been committed to providing 3000 additional car spaces across the CityRail network.

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Walking and cycling

In August 2008, the NSW Government announced the preparation of a new cycling blueprint aimed at encouraging more people across the state to use bikes as a clean and healthy transport choice. The Premier's Council for Active Living is overseeing the development of a new NSW BikePlan. The council aims to build and strengthen the physical and social environments in which communities engage in active living. It comprises senior representatives from across government, industry and the community sector and follows on from Planning Guidelines for Walking and Cycling (NSW Government 2004b), which is being updated.

The Sustainable Mobility Initiatives for Local Environments project, administered by the Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water, aims to reduce the impact of urban transport on greenhouse gas emissions, air quality and congestion by promoting and demonstrating successful sustainable transport choices in local areas.

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Future directions

Further development of cleaner technologies, promotion of alternative fuel sources and improvement of minimum energy standards in conventional vehicles will enable environmental improvements to be made in fuel and energy consumption and emissions.

Continual improvements to road and rail infrastructure can encourage use of public transport and reduce travel times on roads, thus reducing emissions and fuel consumption. To support growth in the north-west, the Richmond rail line will be duplicated between Quakers Hill and a new station at Schofields by 2010, with the line to Vineyard duplicated afterwards. Duplication of the Cronulla line is also due to be completed in 2011. The delivery of the South-West Rail Link will be staged so that the infrastructure matches growth in the area. Stage one will see the delivery of a significant upgrade to Glenfield station, including the construction of a major commuter car park, and this is expected to be completed by 2013.

It is anticipated that the national freight tonne-kilometres will double from 2000 to 2020 (NTC 2006), and improved efficiency for freight transport will be a strong focus for the Government. Options include incorporating improvements in technology and changes in transport modes where appropriate.

Further work could also review the technology, infrastructure, policy and legislation that is having an impact on the commercialisation of electric vehicles.

The upgrade of cycle paths and construction of facilities closer to metropolitan centres will encourage the public to cycle or walk, and therefore reduce private vehicle use.

The Metropolitan Strategy and associated draft subregional strategies are designed to integrate land-use and transport planning. This will promote sustainable transport use and healthier communities by providing the option of travel by public transport, walking and cycling, and enabling people to carry out more activities in one location.

The Government will continue the development and rollout of strategic bus corridors in conjunction with the bus priority program, the integrated network planning process and improved information at bus stops.

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