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The Hume Highway is the major road transport link between the cities of Sydney and Melbourne.

Transportation in Australia is a highly significant part of the infrastructure of the Australian economy, since the distances are large and the country has a low population density.[1]



The Eastern Suburbs Line passing over the Eastern Distributor motorway in Sydney

Australia has the second highest level of car ownership in the world. It has three to four times more road per capita than Europe and seven to nine times more than Asia. Australia also has the third highest per capita rate of fuel consumption in the world. Perth, Adelaide and Brisbane are rated among the most car-dependent cities in the world, with Sydney and Melbourne close behind.[2] Furthermore, the distance travelled by car (or similar vehicle) in Australia is among the highest in the world, being exceeded by USA and Canada[1].

There are 3 different categories of Australian roads:

  • Federal Highways
  • State Highways
  • Local Roads

The road network comprises a total of 913,000 km broken down into:[3]

  • Paved: 353,331 km (including 3,132 km of expressways)
  • Unpaved: 559,669 km (1996 estimate)

The majority of road tunnels in Australia have been constructed since the 1990s to relieve traffic congestion in metropolitan areas, or to cross significant watercourses.

Public Transport in Australia

Rising petrol prices and increasing traffic congestion are thought to be factors contributing to renewed growth in use of urban public transport.[4]


Intra-city Public Transport networks

The table below lists major cities in Australia with currently operating multi-modal intra-city (as opposed to inter-city or regional) public transportation networks.

The only Australian capital cities without such networks are Canberra and Darwin.

Trams in Australia historically serviced many Australian towns and several cities formerly operated tram networks, however the majority of these were shut down before the 1970s. Melbourne is an exception here however, and today boasts the largest tram network of any city in the world. Major regional cities where trams formerly facilitated multi-modal public transport networks Launceston, Geelong, Ballarat, Bendigo and Rockhampton.

Most major cities have at minimum bus services and these cities have been excluded services as have any with tourist or heritage transport (such as the private monorail at Sea World or the tourist Victor Harbor Horse Drawn Tram).

City Overview Integrated Network Name Buses and taxicabs Urban rail[5] Light rail[6] Monorail Watercraft[7]
Adelaide Public transport in Adelaide Adelaide Metro Overview Overview Overview
Brisbane Public transport in Brisbane Translink Overview Overview Overview
Darwin Public transport in Darwin YesY limited access
Gold Coast Public transport on the Gold Coast Translink Overview Overview Overview Overview
Hobart Public transport in Hobart Metro YesY YesY
Melbourne Public transport in Melbourne Metlink YesY YesY YesY limited access
Newcastle Public Transport in Newcastle YesY limited access YesY
Perth Public transport in Perth Transperth YesY YesY YesY YesY
Sydney Public transport in Sydney STA YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY

Intercity rail transport

Map of passenger railway services in Australia
State Government owned rail services:      QR Citytrain and Traveltrain services      CountryLink and CityRail services      V/Line services      Transwa services Great Southern Railway lines:      Indian Pacific      The Overland      The Ghan
Looking along the Trans-Australian Railway

The railway network is large, comprising a total of 33,819 km (2,540 km electrified) of track: 3,719 km broad gauge, 15,422 km standard gauge, 14,506 km narrow gauge and 172 km dual gauge. Rail transport started in the various colonies at different dates. Privately owned railways started the first lines, and struggled to succeed on a remote, huge, and sparsely populated continent, and government railways dominated. Although the various colonies had been advised by London to choose a common gauge, the colonies ended up with different gauges.

Inter-state rail services

The Great Southern Railway, owned by Serco Asia Pacific, operates three trains: the Indian Pacific (Sydney-Adelaide-Perth), The Ghan (Adelaide-Alice Springs-Darwin), and The Overland (Melbourne-Adelaide) [1]. NSW owned CountryLink services link Brisbane, Canberra and Melbourne via Sydney. Since the extension of the Ghan from Alice Springs to Darwin was completed in 2004, all mainland Australian capital cities are linked by standard gauge rail, for the first time.

Intra-state and city rail services

There are various state and city rail services operated by a combination of government and private entities, the most prominent of these include V/Line (regional trains and buses in Victoria); Metro Trains Melbourne which operates the Melbourne rail network; RailCorp operating all passenger rail services in New South Wales including (CityRail and CountryLink);Queensland Rail (QR) operating Traveltrain and the Citytrain network, South-East Queensland's commuter railway network under the TransLink scheme, and Transwa operating train and bus services in Western Australia.


Major cities in Australia do not have full-fledged underground systems. Melbourne's system is partially underground, as is Sydney's and Perth's. The former two are planning to construct more extensive metro systems while the latter is seeing its major train station put underground (Northbridge Link).

Mining railways

Four heavy-duty mining railways carry iron ore to ports in the northwest of Western Australia. These railways carry no other traffic, and are isolated by deserts from all other railways. The lines are standard gauge and are built to the heaviest US standards.

In 2006, a fifth iron ore railway is proposed by the Fortescue Metals Group, while a sixth common carrier railway is proposed to serve the port of Oakajee just north of Geraldton.

Cane railways

In Queensland about 15 sugar mills have narrow gauge (2 ft  (610 mm) gauge) cane tramways that deliver sugar cane to the mills.


There are several pipeline systems including:

Projects under construction or planned:

  • Goulburn River to Sugarloaf Reservoir, Melbourne (North-South Pipeline, alternatively called the Sugarloaf Pipeline) - construction commenced 2008, expected completion in 2011.[9]
  • Wimmera-Mallee Pipeline - construction commenced on supply systems 3 & 4 in May 2008, with other systems still under construction. Expected completion of all systems in 2010.[10]
  • Melbourne to Geelong Pipeline - construction will commence in 2010, expected completion in 2011.[11]
  • Rocklands Reservoir to Grampian Headworks pipeline (Hamilton - Grampians Pipeline) - construction commenced December 2008, expected completion in 2010.[12]


Australia's inland waterways are not a significant means commercial transport. In the 19th century, paddle steamers were used on the Murray-Darling Basin to transport produce such as wool and wheat but the water levels are highly unreliable, making the river impassable for large parts of the year. The steamers proved unable to compete with rail, and later, road transport. Traffic now on inland waterways is therefore largely restricted to private recreational craft.

Ports and harbours

Ferries in Sydney



Iron Ore


Merchant marine vessels

Container crane and ship at the Port of Melbourne

As of 2006, the Australian fleet consists of 53 ships of 1,000 gross register tons or over. The use of foreign registered ships to carry Australian cargoes between Australian ports is permitted under a permit scheme, with either Single Voyage Permit (SVP) or a Continuous Voyage Permit (CVP) being issued to ships.[13] Between 1996 and 2002 the number of permits issued has increased by about 350 per cent.[14]

Over recent years the number of Australian registered and flagged ships has greatly declined, from 75 ships in 1996 to less than 40 in 2007, by 2009 the number is now approaching 30. Marine unions blame the decline on the shipping policy of the Howard Government which permitted foreign ships to carry coastal traffic.[15] There have also been cases where locally operated ships have Australian flag from the vessel, registering it overseas under a flag of convenience, then hiring foreign crews who earn up to about half the monthly rate of Australian sailors.[14] Such moves were supported by the Howard Government but opposed by maritime unions and the Australian Council of Trade Unions.[16] The registration of the ship overseas also meant the earnings of the ships are not subject to Australian corporate taxation laws.[15]

AustraliaStatistics for the Shipping Industry of Australia
Total: 53 ships (1,000 gross register tons (GRT) or over)
Totalling: 1,361,000 GRT/1,532,874 metric tons deadweight (DWT)
Cargo ships
Bulk ships 17
Cargo ship 4
Container ships 1
Roll-on/Roll-off ships 5
Tanker ships
Liquefied gas tanker ships 4
Chemical tanker ships 3
Petroleum tanker ships 6
Passenger ships
General passenger ships 6
Combined passenger/cargo 7
Source: This article contains material from the CIA World Factbook which, as a US government publication, is in the public domain.


Melbourne (Tullamarine) Airport
Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport


There are many airports around Australia paved or unpaved. A 2004 estimate put the number of airports at 448. The busiest airports in Australia are:

Airports with paved runways

Total: 305

  • Over 3,047 m (10,000 ft): 10
  • 2,438 to 3,047 m (8,000 to 10,000 ft): 12
  • 1,524 to 2,437 m (5,000 to 8,000 ft): 131
  • 914 to 1,523 m (3,000 to 5,000 ft): 139
  • Under 914 m (3,000 ft): 13 (2004 estimate)

Airports with unpaved runways


  • 1,524 to 2,437 m (5,000 to 8,000 ft): 17
  • 914 to 1,523 m (3,000 to 5,000 ft): 112
  • Under 914 m (3,000 ft): 14 (2004 estimate)


sourced from CIA World Fact Book

See also


  1. ^ a b "Transport in Australia". iRAP. Retrieved 2009-02-17.  
  2. ^
  3. ^ CIA world fact book
  4. ^!OpenDocument
  5. ^ Includes electrified networks only
  6. ^ includes modern tram networks
  7. ^ includes public ferry and Water taxi services
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^ Australian Shipowners Association. "Industry Policy". Retrieved 2009-11-08.  
  14. ^ a b Paul Robinson (March 26, 2002). "Maritime unions slam use of 'cheap' foreign labour". The Age. Retrieved 2009-11-08.  
  15. ^ a b Martin Byrne (October 22, 2009). "A new tanker ship for Australia". Letter from the Australian Institute of Marine and Power Engineers to the Federal Minister. Retrieved 2009-11-08.  
  16. ^ Liz Porter (July 14, 2002). "Shipping out, and definitely not shaping up". The Age. Retrieved 2009-11-08.  


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