1. Introduction

The Australian Transport Assessment and Planning (ATAP) Guidelines (the ATAP or the Guidelines) are an infrastructure planning and decision-support framework applied to transport. They outline best practice for transport planning and assessment in Australia.

The Guidelines provide a comprehensive framework for overall transport system management, focusing primarily on planning, assessing and developing transport systems and related initiatives. Good transport system management starts with good planning and decision-making, followed by good decisions about individual initiatives. The Guidelines are a key component of processes to:

  • Ensure that proposals to improve transport systems in Australia (through policies, strategies, plans and specific initiatives) achieve jurisdictional[1] goals and objectives
  • Provide maximum net benefit to the community and represent value for money.

Users of the Guidelines include government departments and agencies, private firms, individuals, industry bodies and consultants.

Previous editions of the Guidelines were published in 2004 and 2006 as the National Guidelines for Transport System Management (NGTSM) in Australia and endorsed by all Australian jurisdictions. They have recently been revised in a multi-stage Guidelines Revision Project. Box 1 sets out the aims of this project. Stage 1 delivered an initial Guidelines Refresh (Edition 3) in April 2015. Stage 2 has been completed, resulting in the revised Edition 4 presented here. The name change to the ATAP Guidelines occurred as part of the release of the 4th edition in August 2016.

The revision project has been overseen by a steering committee of representatives from Australasian transport bodies. The ATAP Guidelines Steering Committee members are listed in Box 2. They include the Australian, state and territory governments, Infrastructure Australia (the Australian Government’s independent infrastructure advisory body), the New Zealand Government, an international expert and Austroads (as a project management advisor).

Stage 1 of the revision project (published in April 2015) focused on:

  • Updating the ATAP framework
  • Strengthening the critical up-front aspects of the framework so they better align with Infrastructure Australia’s methods – including goals, objectives and targets, problem identification and assessment, options generation and assessment
  • Scoping further guidance on integrated transport and land use planning
  • Updating road parameter values
  • Providing initial guidance on wider economic benefits and productivity metrics
  • Updating the guidance on travel demand modelling
  • Commencing integration of the Austroads Guide to Road Transport Planning and Guide to Project Evaluation.

The refreshed content was released at the end of Stage 1 in April 2015. During Stage 2, that content has been left largely unchanged, but received minor editing for context plus typographical errors and improved grammar.

Stage 2 of the Revision project has focused on:

  • New or updated guidance for integrated transport and land use planning (based on the scoping work undertaken in Stage 1), passenger transport modelling, benefit management and post-completion evaluation
  • New or updated guidance and parameter values for active travel and travel behaviour change.

Public consultation occurred in Stages 1 and 2, with relevant amendments made to the Guidelines content to reflect the public feedback received.

This and other documents on the ATAP Guidelines website (http://atap.gov.au) contain all the revised content resulting from the Guidelines Revision Project to date and from the ATAP Guidelines 4th edition. The Guidelines content has been endorsed by the Transport and Infrastructure Council (the Council). The Council’s membership consists of the transport ministers of the Commonwealth, states and territories and New Zealand, and the president of the Australian Local Government Association. It is expected that Infrastructure Australia will include the revised Guidelines as part of its assessment processes for proposed initiatives.

Importantly, an ongoing maintenance mechanism for the Guidelines will be implemented beyond mid 2016 so that they remain relevant and updated in future (see Chapter 6 below). This will initially also include completion of the remaining scope of the Guidelines Revision Project (see GHD 2013 for more detail on the scope).

The ATAP Guidelines do not yet address all relevant strategic aspects of transport planning and assessment. One example is the evolution of a greater range of funding options for transport initiatives. This and other relevant topics may be introduced into the guidelines in future is the need and priority arise.

As the Guidelines focus on transport planning and assessment, they specifically do not attempt to provide guidance on the more operational areas of transport, such as traffic management or project delivery. However, they do provide appropriate cross references to operational areas and issues where required.

Box 1 Scope and staging of the Guideline Revision Project

The need to update the Guidelines was recognised in 2013, with a ‘revision project’ approved in the same year. The scope of the Guidelines Revision Project was established through a stakeholder consultation exercise (GHD, 2013). In addition, a subsequent review of the Guidelines' framework (Peritum, 2013) identified that refinements were required to better align it with Infrastructure Australia’s Reform and Investment Framework (IA, 2013).

The aim of the Revision Project is to produce a single set of national transport guidelines that:

  • Ensure the Guidelines meet the needs of users, are easy to use and are rigorous and reliable
  • Enhance the multi-modal perspective of the Guidelines and strengthen the multi-sector and integration (transport, land use, environment) focus
  • Provide guidance on emerging issues in the context of recent research and practice, including wider economic benefits, computable general equilibrium modelling, treatment of risk in construction cost, and demand estimation
  • Provide guidance on assessing a range of initiatives such as active travel initiatives, non‑infrastructure solutions and regulatory changes not currently in the Guidelines
  • Incorporate the Austroads Guide to Project Evaluation and the Guide to Road Transport Planning and incorporate or provide strong links to the ATC National Guidelines for Integrated Passenger Transport and Land Use Planning
  • Update and consolidate parameter values for use in road and non-road project appraisals, and establish a framework for keeping parameter values updated
  • Increase the degree of harmonisation and alignment with other guidelines, including Infrastructure Australia’s Reform and Investment Framework
  • Remove any errors in the 2006 edition of the Guidelines
  • Publish the updated Guidelines in the most appropriate technology (e.g. web-based).

Box 2 Steering Committee for the Guidelines Revision Project

Australian Government

Marcus James, Michael Sutton Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development, Chair
Paul Roe, Anna Chau, Paul Stanley Infrastructure Australia

State and Territory Governments

Peter Tisato, Robert Munchenberg Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure South Australian Government
Paul Salter, Shanta Hallock, Jarrod Dobson Department of Transport Planning and Local Infrastructure Victorian Government
Bryan Willey, Rolf Lunsmann Transport for NSW New South Wales Government
Wes Soet Main Roads Western Australia Government
Robin Murray Department of Transport and Main Roads Queensland Government
Kuga Kugathas Transport Planning, Environment and Sustainable Development Australian Capital Territory Government
Fiona McLeod, Angela Conway Department of State Growth Tasmanian Government
Brett Clifford, Louise McCormick, Stewart Sharples Department of Transport Northern Territory Government


Oliver Jones International expert, industry member  
David Silvester, Glenn Bunting New Zealand Transport Agency New Zealand Government
Elaena Gardner, Nick Koukoulas, Murray Kidnie Austroads  


Tracey Wilkinson,
Andy Do (Grad)
Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development Australian Government

Work stream leaders

Peter Tisato Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure South Australian Government
Paul Roe Infrastructure Australia Australian Government
Mark Harvey Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics Australian Government
Ed McGeehan VicRoads Victorian Government
Wes Soet Main Roads Western Australia Government

The ATAP Guidelines Revision Project engaged consultants to undertake part of the work program. Consultants were selected and engaged through competitive tender processes governed by established Austroads procedures. Consultant engagement decisions were made by the Steering Committee.

1.1 Background to the ATAP Guidelines

A range of guidelines for assessing initiatives has existed in Australia for many years. At the broadest level, central agencies (usually Treasury and Finance) have produced guidelines that all sectors are required to use. For transport, the longest serving guidelines have been the Austroads series of guides, with some jurisdictions developing their own transport‑specific guidelines. Infrastructure Australia now also publishes guidelines for assessing initiatives that are of national significance and in excess of $100 million.

In this context, national guidelines play an important role in facilitating consistent best practice across the country. This has been a primary aim of the ATAP Guidelines. The current Guidelines Revision Project will further facilitate consistent national practice by incorporating two Austroads guidelines and by increasing consistency and alignment with Infrastructure Australia’s guidelines.

There is an increasing focus on the need for governments to undertake rigorous planning and assessment processes before committing to infrastructure expenditure. This is evidenced by the emergence of Infrastructure Australia and also the Productivity Commission Inquiry Report into Public Infrastructure. Amongst other things, the Productivity Commission’s inquiry recommended that all governments should commit to rigorous cost‑benefit analysis and due diligence for public infrastructure investment proposals exceeding a threshold figure. The ATAP Guidelines provide the tools for governments to make decisions on expenditure relating to transport systems in a consistent and coherent manner and with due diligence and rigour.

1.1.1 Evolution of the ATAP Guidelines

The impetus for developing the Guidelines came from the Australian Government’s land transport funding program. In 2003, the Standing Committee on Transport endorsed an appraisal methodology for that program. It also established an expert working group to expand the methodology and develop guidelines relevant to all jurisdictions.

The 1st edition of the Guidelines provided a generic framework and focused on non-urban land transport (road, rail and inter-modal). It was published by the Australian Transport Council (ATC) in 2004. The ATC is now called the Transport and Infrastructure Council.

In 2005, a Guidelines Implementation Committee (GIC) was established to review, update and extend the Guidelines. In February 2006, the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) also highlighted the need for transport planning and appraisal processes in Australia to be strengthened and coordinated, and recommended this be achieved by ‘adopting ATC-endorsed national guidelines for evaluating new public road and rail infrastructure projects by December 2006’.

The 2nd edition of the Guidelines was published in December 2006 (NGTSM06). It incorporated feedback on the 1st edition and was expanded to include urban transport. It was also restructured so the Guidelines were more concise and user-friendly while maintaining their rigour.

The revision project (see Box 1) has continued the development of the Guidelines. Its aim has been to continue to meet the needs of users and suggest best practice. It is intended that the Guidelines will continue to be maintained, updated and further developed in future.

[1] The term ‘jurisdictions’ is used here to mean the collection of all governments in Australia: national, state, territory and local. Governments are the owners and primary users of the guidelines. The set of users is broader, and these are discussed in the User Guide.