Jump to Content

Land Transport

Bill EllisContact Bill Ellis
First Assistant Secretary
Land Transport
Phone (02) 6274 7651
Email Bill.Ellis@DOTARS.gov.au


The Land Transport Division adopts a leadership role in developing Australias land transport system. It contributes to portfolio outcomes by facilitating major road and rail infrastructure investment which in turn provides a powerful mechanism for regional and national development. It also promotes improved road vehicle safety and environmental performance, and rail and road transport regulatory reform.

The Division has particular responsibilities for the Federal Interstate Registration Scheme for heavy vehicles, intelligent transport systems, safe transport of dangerous goods and standards development, and research into safety and environmental aspects of motor vehicle use. In pursuit of effective governance, Land Division will assist the new National Transport Secretariat and help reform the Standing Committee on Transport, which advises the Australian Transport Council (ATC).


Rail reform

The Department provided advice to the Commonwealth Government on the recommendations of four rail and road reports. The Government tabled its response to these reports on 13 April 2000, and in particular, outlined initiatives aimed at accelerating national rail reform.

At the 1997 rail summit, Australian transport Ministers agreed on a set of performance targets for the interstate rail track to be achieved over five years. The Department administers a $250 million rail infrastructure program in pursuit of those targets. A sum of $121.75 million has been committed to a range of rail infrastructure improvements. Acting on advice from the Department, the Minister for Transport and Regional Services made additional project approvals worth $50 million in 19992000.

The Government has attracted private investment to rail through the successful sale of the Australian National Railways Commission; and is proceeding with the National Rail Corporation (NR) sale by 30 June 2001.

The Department continues to work toward achieving one-stop-shop rail track access arrangements agreed by the ATC in a November 1997 decision. Full consolidation of the management of Commonwealth and Victorian interstate rail infrastructure through the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) was completed during the year.

The Australian Rail Operations Unit (AROU) was established within the Department on 1 January 2000 under an intergovernmental agreement. The AROU is assisting industry and governments in implementing national codes of practice for the interstate rail track from late 2000. This will improve uniformity of rail operations across States.

The Department is also administering a $20 million Federation Fund contribution to the Abt Railway in Tasmania. A Deed of Grant was finalised during 19992000 and construction is proceeding.

Road transport

The Commonwealth Government has taken a lead role in encouraging the implementation of higher mass limits for heavy vehicles fitted with road-friendly suspensions. This reform will encourage a shift to latest-technology vehicles with better safety and environmental performance.

The Government on 1 July 1999 implemented higher mass limits for vehicles registered under the Federal Interstate Registration Scheme (FIRS). All States and Territories except New South Wales (NSW) and the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) opened or increased access to higher mass limits from that date.

To support this effort by States and Territories, the Commonwealth Government has committed $29 million for bridge upgrading on the National Highway. Proposals will be assessed in 200001.

The Department continued its involvement in a cooperative road transport reform process with States, Territories and the National Road Transport Commission. A second charges determination for heavy vehicles was agreed by ATC and implemented on 1 July 2000 by the Commonwealth for FIRS vehicles, and on behalf of the ACT, which was host to national model legislation. The new charges more accurately reflect the current proportion of road wear attributed to heavy vehicles. The Department participated in developing a nine-point Third Heavy Vehicle Reform Package that sets a forward plan for road transport reform. The ATC endorsed the package on 19 May 2000. One key reform is a review of approaches to combat fatigue, to which the Department has committed $130 000.

The Department plays a lead role in the reform area of land transportation of dangerous goods. It developed and published in March 2000 the second edition of an Australian code for the land transport of explosives.

The Department played an important role in developing the Intelligent Transport System (ITS) national strategy, e-Transport, including secondment of a departmental officer to the coordinating body, ITS Australia. ITS Australia will help harness new technologies for managing Australias transport systems. The ATC adopted the e-Transport strategy on 12 November 1999.

Vehicle standards

Changed arrangements for importing used motor vehicles to Australia were outlined in the Governments response to the review of the Motor Vehicle Standards Act 1989 in May 2000. The new scheme replaces type approval for used vehicles with a vehicle-by-vehicle approval system through registered workshops.

The Australian Design Rules (ADRs) governing vehicles imported to Australia or manufactured here are being reviewed. Five new ADRs covering vehicle emission standards were finalised and gazetted during the past year. They will bring Australia up to, or close to, world best practice in emissions control. In accordance with the Trans-Tasman Mutual Recognition Arrangement, 19 ADRs covering vehicle lighting have been completed and are ready for gazettal as law. Public comment on a further 12 ADRs was completed in May 2000.

Australia is a leading world player in improving vehicle occupant protection.

The Department is involved in research supporting International Harmonised Research Activities (IHRA) working groups on vehicle side and offset frontal impact, vehicle compatibility, biomechanics and pedestrian safety.

An investigation of the specification of heavy trucks and consequent effects on truck dynamics and drivers was completed during the year. The subsequent consultants report was tabled in the Senate on 18 April 2000.

In August 1999 the Department implemented the final phase of an electronic lodgment system of evidence for demonstrating compliance with the requirements of the Motor Vehicle Standards Act 1989.

Commonwealth roads program

The Department successfully delivered the Commonwealth Governments National Highway and Roads of National Importance Roads Program, together with a bridge upgrading component for the National Highway.

Overall, $818.2 million in Commonwealth funds wase allocated directly for roads in 19992000.

Payments were made against expenditure on 130 approved projects. The figures do not include payments made under the Black Spot Program.

Planning for three new Murray River bridges, partially financed by the Centenary of Federation Fund, is proceeding.

The Department commenced a broad review of National Highway maintenance funding to develop a closer link between funding and needs. A contract was let to ARRB Transport Research Pty Ltd to examine road condition models that estimate funding requirements. Initial results will be known at the end of August 2000. Meanwhile, it has completed a study of the application of United Kingdom methods of private-sector financing of roads. Given that these issues are linked inextricably with taxation issues, the Department continues to foster discussion and analysis of the costs and benefits of Public Private Partnerships with government central agencies and industry.

Rail revival

The Commonwealth Government envisages a rail industry consistent with world best practice and delivering a high-quality service to customers.

Interstate track performance targets were to be achieved over five years. The Department administers a Budget allocation of $250 million over four years to pursue these targets. Two years into the program the MelbourneAdelaide interstate rail track, which was speed-limited on 28 per cent of its length, now has speed restrictions on less than three per cent of track. Journey times have been cut from 13.5 hours to 11 hours, and a further 2.5-hour reduction in transit times for Superfreighter trains has occurred between Perth and Adelaide.

These performance enhancements were assisted by consolidation of the management of Commonwealth and Victorian interstate infrastructure. Access to the interstate rail track from Kalgoorlie to Alice Springs, Broken Hill and Albury via Melbourne and Adelaide is now arranged through the ARTC.

Discussions with the NSW Rail Access Corporation aim to develop the best investment package to eliminate the curfew on freight trains entering and exiting the south Sydney metropolitan network. Once agreements are in place, access to the entire interstate mainline track between Perth and Brisbane will be provided through a single point of access for interstate operators.

The Commonwealth Government is also facilitating private investment in large railway infrastructure projects by assisting with seed money for preliminary studies and sharing the capital cost of implementation. It is contributing $165 million to constructing a private-sector railway line between Alice Springs and Darwin.

The Government has also contributed to a pre-feasibility study for a privately funded inland rail link between Melbourne and Brisbane. The study findings will be released in the second half of 2000.

Rail Freight GraphicIn association with the New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory governments, the Commonwealth has facilitated private-sector interest in operating a Very High Speed Train between Sydney and Canberra.


Reducing vehicle emissions

The Australian transport sector accounts for about 17 per cent of net greenhouse gas emissions and is Australias most rapidly growing emissions sector. Transport sector emissions rose 18 per cent between 1990 and 1997.

Motor vehicles are the single largest contributor to urban air pollution. Consequently, more stringent new vehicle pollution emission standards are an effective measure to manage air quality. With the introduction of its new tax package from 1 July 2000, the Commonwealth Government agreed to a broad range of environmental initiatives, including such standards for petrol and diesel vehicles to take effect from 2002. Applying to all new vehicles imported to Australia or manufactured here, the standards significantly reduce harmful emission levels from all new vehicles, and will by 2006 bring Australia into line with international best practice for diesel vehicle emissions.

Better fuel consumption

The development of an ADR on fuel consumption for new passenger cars was announced by the Prime Minister, the Hon. John Howard MP, as a specific initiative under the Environmental Strategy of the Motor Vehicle Industry. To apply from 1 January 2001, the new ADR (ADR 81/00) requires model-specific fuel consumption labels on the inside of windscreens of new passenger vehicles up to 2.7 tonne gross vehicle mass. The label aims to inform consumers about fuel consumption and encourage them to take it into in vehicle purchase. The labelling scheme is one of several commitments that will assist Australia reach its Kyoto Protocol goal of reducing national greenhouse gas emissions to eight per cent above 1990 levels by 200812.


The Land Transport Divisions direct services to its Ministers and Parliamentary Secretary involved more than 1370 items, of which 95 per cent were rated satisfactory.

The Department issued 2124 vehicle compliance plate approvals during 19992000. Among these, 98 per cent of full-volume vehicle and trailer approvals, 95 per cent of low-volume trailer approvals and 53 per cent of low-volume vehicle approvals were completed within their respective Client Service Charter commitments. A total of 15 789 vehicle import approvals was issued, 68 per cent being completed within the 17-day commitment. More than 55 800 incoming phone calls relating to vehicle imports were received. Eighty per cent were actioned within the 24-hour commitment.

Twenty-five written compliments related to the quality of information and service and the prompt completion of approvals. Three written complaints were received about delays in processing approvals.

In administering the Commonwealth Governments roads infrastructure program with States and Territories, the Department undertakes to process payments for approved projects within seven working days of receipt of the claim, where satisfactory claims are received by the 13th of each month. Only 26 of the 96 claims lodged during 19992000 were received by the 13th of the month. Of these, 16 were paid within seven working days (62 per cent).

Download Performance Tables [PDFPDF: 43 KB] as Adobe Acrobat PDF document.

Document description:

  • Output 1.1 Policy advice and Ministerial services
  • Output 2.1 Approvals and monitoring of directions, rules and regulations
  • Output 2.2 Safety and security investigations
  • Output 4.2 Safety and security education and information
  • Output 4.4 Administration of programs and grants for industry
  • Administered Item 1.1 Services to communities
  • Administered Item 2.1 Services for industry and economic development
  • Administered Item 2.2 Grants to States/Territories and local government