Regional road and rail freight corridor resilience

Infrastructure Australia | Infrastructure Priority List |

Regional road and rail freight corridor resilience

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Regional road and rail freight corridor resilience

Map  showing all of Australia highlighted
Adaptation and resilience
Infrastructure Australia identified proposal
Near term (0-5 years)
24 June 2022
0325 Regional road and rail updated.PNG

Recent bushfires, storms, floods, cyclones and coastal erosion events have shown the importance of building infrastructure resilience to safeguard communities, ecosystems and the economy.

Efficient and resilient freight corridors, particularly those that are part of the National Land Transport Network (NLTN), are vital to supporting the quality of life of regional and remote communities by reducing the cost and increasing the variety of goods supplied to these areas. The strategic corridors of the NLTN are vulnerable to natural hazards and lack resilience.

During severe natural disasters, regional and remote communities are often isolated due to corridor closures, meaning that freight, medical and other crucial supplies cannot be provided by road and rail at a time when need is highest. The only alternative land-based route for many key corridors is prohibitively circuitous, meaning getting freight and critical supplies to some communities comes at a significant cost in terms of time, money and wellbeing. A lack of resilience also impacts business viability and disincentives investment.

Natural disaster risks are forecast to increase in intensity and frequency as Australia’s climate changes. Increased resilience of the NLTN and other primary routes is therefore required.

In February 2023, the Bureau of Infrastructure and Transport Research Economics (BITRE) completed phase 1 of a review of Road and Rail Supply Chain Resilience Review – Phase 1 that identified 52 road and 13 rail critical freight routes.

Early-stage proposal

Strategic Fit

Addressing the problem aligns with challenges identified in the 2019 Australian Infrastructure Audit, such as challenge #83 remote and regional supply chains are critical for industry and to supply communities with basic needs, and #61 climate change is likely to cause frequent and severe weather events that damage transport assets. It also responds to the 2021 Australian Infrastructure Plan recommendations regarding building community resilience to all hazards by considering systemic risks in infrastructure planning.

Societal Impact

Road and rail freight corridor closures is a nationally significant problem that has economic, social and equity impacts that predominantly affect regional and remote communities. Climate change is expected to increase the frequency and duration that NLTN corridors, and other major routes are closed and make the cumulative effects of the problem worse over time.

Regional roads support industries such as tourism, cattle, freight and mining. Completely sealing major regional roads such as the Outback Way and Tanami Road (which will have an estimated 100km and 400km gap of unsealed road sections, respectively, after currently funded sealing projects are completed) is required to fully achieve productivity and resilience uplift, efficiency gains and alternatives to major freight routes such as the Barkly Highway and the Victoria Highway. 


The problem can be addressed if action is taken in a coordinated, cross-jurisdictional and cross-sectoral way. While infrastructure solutions will contribute to addressing the problem, coordinated infrastructure planning, emergency management, supply chain management and land use planning, informed by improved data collection and sharing, is required.

Next steps

We encourage the Australian, state, territory and local governments to fully assess this problem in their respective locations (Stage 1 of Infrastructure Australia’s Assessment Framework) prior to identifying and analysing potential investment options (Stage 2 of Infrastructure Australia’s Assessment Framework). This should involve working with climate data, transport, planning and emergency management agencies to develop a coordinated approach to diagnosing and addressing the problem. This work should be informed by the BITRE who is leading a review into Road and Rail Supply Chain Resilience Review including Phase 1 findings which identified key freight routes that are vulnerable to disruption.


Refer to Infrastructure Glossary for terms and definitions.