1. Introduction

The Australian Transport Assessment and Planning (ATAP) Guidelines are an infrastructure planning and decision-support framework applied to transport. They outline best practice for transport planning and assessment in Australia and are a web-based product available at atap.gov.au. They are endorsed by all Australian jurisdictions and are published by the Transport and Infrastructure Council.1 They are closely aligned with the Infrastructure Australia Assessment Framework (IA 2017).

There is wide support for rigorous planning and assessment processes occurring before committing to infrastructure expenditure. This view has been reinforced in recent years by the role of Infrastructure Australia (IA 2016, 2017) and the Public Infrastructure Inquiry undertaken by the Productivity Commission (2014). 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.

In this context, the ATAP Guidelines provide the tools for the planning and assessment of transport system initiatives to be undertaken in a nationally consistent, coherent manner and with due diligence and rigour. They play the important role of facilitating consistent best practice across the country. The Guidelines do this by providing guidance for common use across jurisdictions and by maintaining consistency and alignment with Infrastructure Australia's guidelines.

The ATAP 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 2 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.

This is the fifth edition of the Guidelines. Box 1 summarises the background of the Guidelines.

The ongoing maintenance of the Guidelines is overseen by the ATAP Steering Committee reporting to the Transport Infrastructure and Senior Officials Committee (TISOC). The ATAP Steering Committee ensures the Guidelines remain relevant and updated in future (see Chapter 6 below). The steering committee consists of representatives from Australasian transport bodies, namely the Australian, state and territory governments, Infrastructure Australia (the Australian Government's independent infrastructure advisory body), the New Zealand Government, Austroads (as a project management advisor) and additional members as the agreed by the committee (Refer Table 1)

The Steering Committee maintains ATAP web-based Guidelines that:

  • Meet the needs of users, are easy to use and are rigorous and reliable
  • Have a focus that is multi-modal, multi-sector and integrated (transport, land use, environment)
  • Provide guidance on planning transport systems and assessing a range of initiative types (investment and non-investment) across transport modes
  • Provide parameter values for use in appraisals across modes, and establish a framework for keeping parameter values updated
  • Provide guidance on relevant emerging issues in the context of recent research
  • Harmonise and align with other guidelines, especially those of Infrastructure Australia.

Public consultation occurs across all ATAP work to ensure relevant amendments made to the Guidelines and new guidance reflect the public feedback.

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 as 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 Background of 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 (Project Evaluation; and Road Transport Planning), with some jurisdictions developing their own transport-specific guidelines.

The impetus for developing ‘national’ transport 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.

In 2004, the 1st edition of the Guidelines was published by the Australian Transport Council (ATC)–now called the Transport and Infrastructure Council. Titled the National Guidelines for Transport System Management in Australia (NGTSM), it provided a generic framework and focused on non-urban land transport (road, rail and inter-modal).

In 2005, work commenced to extend the Guidelines to urban transport. 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. COAG recommended this be achieved by ‘adopting ATC–endorsed national guidelines for evaluating new public road and rail infrastructure projects by December 2006’.

In December 2006, the 2nd edition of the Guidelines was published. It provided the ‘national guidelines’ sought by COAG, included new material on urban transport and reflected feedback on the 1st edition.

In 2008, Infrastructure Australia was established, and has subsequently published guidelines for assessing infrastructure initiatives of national significance and in excess of $100 million.

In 2013, the need to update the Guidelines was recognised and a ‘revision project’ commenced. The scope of the ‘NGTSM Revision Project’ was established through a stakeholder consultation exercise (GHD, 2013). A related review of the Guidelines' framework (Peritum 2013) also identified that refinements were required for better alignment with Infrastructure Australia's Reform and Investment Framework (IA 2013a). The decision was also taken to incorporate into the Guidelines the Austroads Guide to Project Evaluation and Guide to Road Transport Planning.

In 2015, a 3rd edition of the Guidelines was published, consisting of stronger alignment with the approach of IA and new or updated material on: identification of transport problems and options to resolve them; road parameter values; wider economic benefits and productivity metrics; and travel demand modelling.

In 2016, a 4th edition of the Guidelines was published under the new ATAP name, with further outputs from the revision project. It consisted of new or updated guidance on: integrated transport and land use planning; passenger transport demand modelling; benefit management; post-completion evaluation; and active travel.

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.

Table 1–ATAP Guidelines Steering Committee Membership (as at 1 October 2019)

Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Cities and Regional Development (Chair)

Australian Government

Infrastructure Australia

Australian Government

Transport for NSW

New South Wales Government

Department of Transport

Victorian Government

Department of Transport and Main Roads

Queensland Government

Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure

South Australian Government

Department of Transport Western Australia & Main Roads Western Australia

Western Australia Government

Department of State Growth

Tasmanian Government

Department of Infrastructure, Planning and Logistics

Northern Territory Government

Environment, Planning and Sustainable Development Directorate

Australian Capital Territory Government

Ministry of Transport & New Zealand Transport Agency

New Zealand Government

Austroads Ltd


[1]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.

[2] 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.