An effective transport network that includes all types of transport is essential for a sustainable, liveable and prosperous Victoria. However, pollution from motor vehicles, aircraft, trains and ships and other vessels increases greenhouse gas emissions and negatively affects air quality. With Victoria’s population growing, congestion and overcrowding on roads and public transport are already issues.  

The science evidence that informed this assessment is available in this Transport chapter 

What the indicators tell us

There are only 3 indicators for transport. These show us that demand for transport is increasing and will continue to increase, greenhouse emissions from transport are high and increasing, and air pollution from motor vehicles is poor although improving.

The Transport Indicator Report Card provides an assessment summary of all indicators in this chapter 

More detail


An integrated transport network across all modes of travel is essential for a sustainable, liveable and prosperous Victoria, with the mode and efficiency of travel having a significant effect on the local economy and environment. Pollution from motor vehicles, aircraft, trains and boats increases Victoria’s GHG emissions and impacts on Victoria’s ambient air quality. Associated noise impacts can also affect human health and wellbeing.

The transport sector is the second-biggest contributor to GHG emissions in Victoria, accounting for 20% of the state’s total in 2016. Within the transport sector, passenger cars account for the most GHG emissions, followed by trucks and light commercial vehicles.

Victoria’s population has increased from 4.8 million in 2001 to 5.9 million in 2016., This population expansion has been reflected in increased motor-vehicle use, with the total kilometres travelled by motor vehicles registered in Victoria increasing by 15% from 2007 to 2016. The population is projected to nearly double in the next three decades, to reach 10.1 million in 2051. Without major changes, this would significantly strain Melbourne’s motor vehicle and public transport networks, which are already experiencing congestion and overcrowding.

Increased road travel increases vehicle emissions and is likely to increase population exposure to degraded ambient air quality. A Tasmanian study published in 2018 found that living within 200 m of a major road influences both the development and persistence of asthma in middle-aged adults.

A denser population, more large-scale transport construction projects, and increased motor-vehicle use mean that it is likely that more Victorians will be impacted by noise, and that impacts will be felt more often.

A current example of extended noise impacts associated with motor vehicles is the noise from trucks travelling on major residential streets in Melbourne’s inner-western suburbs. Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA Victoria) noise-monitoring has shown elevated noise levels associated with truck movements in the region during 2001, and again during 2012. VicRoads has gradually introduced and increased truck curfew timings and locations in Melbourne’s inner-west over the past two decades.

The critical environmental and sustainability challenges facing Victoria’s transport management now and in the future include:

  • reducing GHG emissions and other major pollutants in the transport sector

  • reducing travel demand

  • limiting noise impacts associated with travel and transport infrastructure construction.

Current Victorian Government Settings

Transport for Victoria (TfV), part of the Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources, was established in April 2017. Its function is to plan, coordinate and manage the state’s transport system. TfV provides leadership to Victoria’s transport agencies, including VicRoads, Public Transport Victoria and V/Line, and is the customer of major project construction authorities, such as the Level Crossings Removal Authority, Rail Projects Victoria (formerly Melbourne Metro Rail Authority) and Major Road Projects Authority. TfV also works closely with VicTrack.

The objectives of Victoria’s transport system are defined in the Transport Integration Act 2010. Section 10 of the Act states that: ‘The transport system should actively contribute to environmental sustainability by:

  • protecting, conserving and improving the natural environment;

  • avoiding, minimising and offsetting harm to the local and global environment, including through transport-related emissions and pollutants and the loss of biodiversity;

  • promoting forms of transport and the use of forms of energy and transport technologies which have the least impact on the natural environment;

  • improving the environmental performance of all forms of transport and the forms of energy used in transport.’

TfV published Delivering the Goods – Victorian Freight Plan in July 2018. The plan sets out short, medium and long-term priorities to support Victoria’s freight and logistics system through a period of unprecedented growth in freight volumes.

Infrastructure Victoria released a five-year focus report in April 2018 that identified immediate actions to tackle congestion. The Infrastructure Victoria report found that, by 2030, the time spent on congested roads across Melbourne will increase by 20%.

In August 2018, Infrastructure Victoria published a report advising on automated and zero-emissions vehicles infrastructure. The report found zero-emissions vehicles would eliminate all vehicle tailpipe emissions, with a potential reduction in GHG emissions of up to 27 million tonnes by 2046 – the equivalent of about 25% of Victoria’s total GHG emissions in 2015. The report also found that eliminating vehicle exhaust emissions could deliver an annual health dividend to Victorians worth between $270 million and $735 million.

Future Focus

Monitoring noise and air for thorough timely information

Additional research must be undertaken to acquire data and understand the impacts of transport noise on Victorians. A logical starting point would be a real-time noise monitoring network across Victoria, with a strong focus on monitoring near major transport hotspots that include busy roads, aircraft flight paths and along public transport routes. The noise monitoring network would need to be established in conjunction with regular strategic noise mapping that provides the spatial distribution of noise levels, allows for the identification of hot spots and estimates the population exposure and resulting health burden.

The other significant issue associated with transport is ambient air quality. This is closely related to population exposure, which is set to dramatically increase in line with population growth and planning strategies that aim to locate medium and high-density housing developments near metropolitan activity centres. This means that many more people are likely to be living near major roads, which might reduce travel times but could increase exposure to air pollution from motor vehicles and the risk of respiratory illness. The risk of asthma increases by 50% for Australians that live within 200 m of a major road. EPA Victoria currently monitors air quality alongside only one major roadway in Victoria (in Melbourne’s CBD), which is insufficient to understand the impact of air pollution in Victoria associated with motor vehicles.

Recommendation: That EPA Victoria, in coordination with other Victorian Government agencies, improve transport-related air and noise monitoring, including:

  • developing a real-time noise monitoring network across Melbourne (with a view to expansion across larger cities in regional Victoria), focusing on monitoring near major transport hotspots that include busy roads, aircraft flight paths and along public transport routes

  • increasing the number of roadside air monitoring stations

  • publishing the noise and air data to the internet in real time.

Further detail is provided in the Transport Chapter. 

Readers’ note: this recommendation complements Recommendation: Improved air quality assessment capability.

UN Environmental Economic Accounts

Transport is a source of pollution and a user of energy. Under the System of Environmental-Economic Accounting (SEEA), pollution is categorised as a residual flow from the economy to the environment. Transport pollution includes noise, odour, GHGs and other air emissions.

In environmental-economic accounting, air emissions from transport can be reported in air-emissions accounts where they are attributed to households, government, the transport industry or other industries. This allows consistency with the sector classifications used in the traditional System of National Accounts (SNA). Over time, air emissions accounts can be compared with economic activity reported in the SNA to track the emissions intensity of sectors and industries. Accounts information can also be used to evaluate efforts by government, industry and households to reduce emissions. (Air-emissions accounts are discussed further in the Air Quality chapter.)

The transport sector is also a user of energy. Under the SEEA, energy-use accounts report the use of different energy products (such as oil or electricity) by different sectors and industries consistent with the SNA, including the transport industry. Over time, energy accounts can be used to track how the energy-use profile of the transport industry is changing – for example, with the increased uptake of electric vehicles or improvements in the efficiency of energy-use by the transport industry.

Case studies

Sustainable streets paved with plastic

One Melbourne council is reducing landfill and saving carbon emissions by using recycled plastic and glass to resurface its roads.

Saving through paving

A road resurfacing project in the City of Yarra in late 2018 trialled Green Roads PolyPave™, an innovative, high-performance product containing recycled materials including plastic, glass and asphalt.

Two roads in the inner-city suburb of Richmond were the first to be resurfaced using PolyPave™. The initial project reduced landfill by 97.3 tonnes and carbon emissions by 633 kilograms. Approximately 7,300 two-litre plastic bottles and 55,000 glass bottles – equivalent to 1,500 wheelie bins of waste plastic and glass – were saved from landfill. Several tonnes of recycled asphalt were also incorporated into the green mix design.

The trial was so successful that the City of Yarra is repaving more streets in the area with PolyPave™, saving an additional 25,000 plastic bottles from entering landfill.

Better than bitumen

Developed by Melbourne-based sustainable materials producer Alex Fraser Group, PolyPave™ is durable and can be used on any road, regardless of traffic volumes. The surface has performed well in testing and is expected to last at least as long as traditional road surfaces. As well there is no reduction of skid resistance, and the material maintains its strength or shape over time. It can also withstand higher pavement temperatures than traditional surfaces, as the recycled plastic has a higher softening point temperature than the bitumen binder used in asphalt mix.

The project shows how councils can re-use waste generated in their community to construct and maintain their cities and reduce the carbon footprint of projects like this by up to 65%.

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Electric trucks hit the road

Electric-powered trucks and vans used for local commercial deliveries are reducing carbon emissions and driving down costs for operators.

Innovative technology, zero emissions

While much of the focus on electric vehicles in Australia has been on passenger vehicles, big things are also happening with electric power in the transport industry.

With innovative automotive technology from Melbourne business SEA Electric, the first fully electric, zero emission commercial vehicles are now travelling on Victorian roads.

Great for vans, minibuses and medium-duty trucks

This automotive technology features a modular electric drive power pack system that can be fitted into different models of commercial vehicles, including vans, minibuses and trucks which can carry up to 25 tonnes. The technology can be retrofitted to diesel trucks or fitted into new vehicles.

As these lighter-weight trucks and vans are used for pickup and delivery in metropolitan areas, they are generally travelling fewer than 200 km a day – below the point where they need to be recharged. This means their batteries can be recharged overnight when excess power is available rather than during times of peak demand. This makes recharging better for the environment and more cost efficient for the transport operator.

A grant of $517,000 from the Victorian Government’s $20 million New Energy Jobs Fund helped SEA Electric develop the technology. The project is expected to employ up to 80 skilled workers in the four years after launch.

Support from the transport industry

Several transport and retail businesses, including a major Australian supermarket retailer and several freight and logistics operators, are using electric vehicles to transport goods.

With Australia’s population tipped to reach 30 million by 2030, there will be more demand for fast moving consumer goods and more trucks on the roads to deliver them. Powering short-trip commercial vehicles with electricity meets this demand in an environmentally sustainable way.

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