Story of Hume Highway duplication

Duplication of the Hume Highway started in the mid-1970s. In NSW, most of the early work was carried out in the more heavily trafficked areas south-west of Sydney.

Then, in the 1980s and 1990s work was concentrated in the Goulburn, Yass and Gundagai areas. During the later years of the duplication, most work occurred between Coolac and Albury, with the Holbrook bypass the final individual project.

Various methods were methods adopted for the duplication of the Hume Highway. One way was to build another dual lane carriageway (used extensively north of Goulburn and south of Tarcutta) the other way was to build two completely new carriageways, often called Greenfield routes. Town bypasses are an example of this method.

The highway in NSW traverses a number of different regions, climates, topographies and geologies. These have all provided challenges during planning, design and construction of the duplication project.

Topographical features include deep river gorges (eg Pheasants Nest and Douglas Park), hilly to mountainous country through the Southern Tablelands and South West Slopes and flat flood plains at places such as Gundagai and Albury. The varying conditions seen the need for major cuttings, long shallow embankments, and both long and high bridges and approaches.

Heat and cold have had major impacts on construction progress, delaying placement of concrete and asphalt pavements. Some locations experienced a number of natural disasters including droughts and floods, all of which affected construction progress.

RMS and its predecessor organisations the RTA and DMR decentralised the planning, design and construction of the duplication, basing engineering, design, geotechnical and surveying disciplines at numerous locations on the Hume and establishing major project organisations at Goulburn and more recently the Hume Highway Office at Wagga Wagga. Major contractor organisations did this as well, leading to numerous towns having a highly skilled workforce with employees and their families contributing to local economies.

Originally the work was carried out by private contractors and the DMR labour workforce. This changed during the 1980s when the work was contracted to major private construction companies.


Advances in technology have seen many changes in the planning, design and construction of roads during the time that the Hume duplication has progressed. In the early days, drawings were done by hand in pencil and then traced in ink. Calculations were by slide rule or mechanical calculations known as "coffee grinders". Today all design is done on computers and drawings are rarely produced. Similarly, surveying was undertaken using optical surveying equipment. Today, all surveying is computer based, using GPS and the models produced by the computer-aided design process. Over the past few years, construction equipment has also been fitted with GPS systems, allowing line and level to be built to the design as work proceeded rather than having to stop regularly to allow formal surveying.


Equipment itself has changed, with the emergence of self-powered compactors overtaking the 1970s style tractor drawn rollers. Similarly "excavators" have emerged, replacing smaller backhoes and loaders. The modern power of bulldozers has reduced the need for drilling and blasting.

Safety standards

Site safety has also changed dramatically. In the 1970s it was common to see workers in thongs, shorts and without shirts. Today all workers on sites must have undertaken site induction safety training, and use high visibility clothing, long sleeves, and safety equipment such as helmets, safety glasses, hearing protection and gloves. Sun screen and water are provided. No vehicles are allowed onsite without radios, reversing alarms and flashing lights and their travel is controlled by movement plans.


Attention to the environment has also changed significantly. In the 1970s the impact of road development on individual flora and fauna species or fragile ecosystems was just beginning to be understood. Today considerable efforts go into providing mechanisms for fauna to cross new roads, for example, by elevated rope crossings or underpasses. Native flora is replaced by the planting of trees and shrubs which are grown from seed collected locally.

Heritage and culture

More emphasis is now placed on protecting our Aboriginal culture and history. Areas potentially affected by a route are carefully surveyed, with the resulting information used to assist in route selection and planning. Aboriginal communities are consulted, field tests are conducted and designs are adjusted to minimise potential impacts. If damage is unavoidable, artefacts are salvaged.

Our non-Aboriginal heritage is also researched extensively, again to assist in route selection and planning and then to develop mitigation and interpretation strategies as required. An example is the bypass of Berrima, where the route was located away from the town so as not to affect its historic ambience.

ANZAC Groves

ANZAC Groves will be established at the North and South Interchange leading into the Holbrook bypass. Approximately 1000 trees being Eucalyptus Mannifera (Brittle Gum) and Fraxinus excelcior (European or Common Ash) will be planted.

The ANZAC Groves remind us of the sacrifices of thousands of people from regional Australia who served during the Great War and those who remained on the home front contributing to the war effort.

Share this page: