New England Highway

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This article is about the New England Highway in Australia. For the system of numbered highways in New England, USA, from 1922 to 1927, see New England Interstate Highways.
New England Highway
QueenslandNew South Wales
General information
Type Highway
Length 914 km (568 mi)
Route number(s)
Major junctions
North end
South end
Major settlements Crows Nest, Toowoomba, Warwick, Tenterfield, Glen Innes, Armidale, Tamworth, Muswellbrook, Maitland
Highway system
Highways in Australia
National HighwayFreeways in Australia
Highways in Queensland
Highways in New South Wales

The New England Highway is a highway in Australia running from Hexham at Newcastle at its southern end to Yarraman near Toowoomba at its northern end.

At its southern end it connects to the Pacific Highway and at its northern end it connects to the D'Aguilar Highway. It traverses the Hunter Valley and New England regions of New South Wales and the Southern and Darling Downs of Queensland. It is 887 kilometres (551 mi) long.


The New England Highway forms the major part of the 1,047 kilometres (651 mi) SydneyBrisbane national highway route. This route follows the Pacific Motorway (part of national route 1), most of the New England and part of the Cunningham Highway (the parts forming national route 15). The New England Highway north of Warwick is not part of the national highway system.

The New England Highway is numbered as part of national route 15 between Hexham and Warwick and part of national route 42 from Warwick to Toowoomba, then Queensland state route 85 from Toowoomba to Hampton, and Queensland state route 61 from Hampton to Yarraman. The highway terminates at Yarraman.


The New England Highway has its origins in the track which developed north from Newcastle to reach the prime wool growing areas of the New England region which Europeans settled following expeditions by New South Wales (NSW) Surveyor-General John Oxley in 1818 and botanist Allan Cunningham in 1827 and 1829. It became known as the Great Northern Road.

Improvement was limited during the 19th century, initially due to the lack of traffic and funding, then the transfer of traffic from road to the parallel railway which opened in stages between 1857 and 1888 between Newcastle and Wallangarra.

When the NSW main road system was reorganised in August 1928, the Great Northern Road was gazetted as part of state highway 9, the Great Northern Highway. State highway 9 stretched from Milsons Point on the north shore of Sydney Harbour (at that time the Sydney Harbour Bridge was still under construction) via the under-construction road from Hornsby to Gosford (completed 1930), then via Newcastle to Hexham then to Tenterfield. From Tenterfield it continued to the Queensland border near Mount Lindesay. The only major change to this route since its designation has been a re-routing between Tenterfield and the NSW/Queensland border (see below).

In 1931, state highway 10, the North Coast Highway, which commenced at Hexham and extended to Tweed Heads, was renamed the Pacific Highway and extended south to Milsons Point, so that state highway 9 began at Hexham, as it does today. In 1933 the Great Northern Highway was renamed the New England Highway.

In 1954 main road 374, running from Tenterfield to Wallangarra, was redesignated as part of state highway 9 and named as part of the New England Highway, and the section of the New England Highway from Tenterfield to Mount Lindesay was renumbered as state highway 24 and renamed the Mount Lindesay Highway.[1] The rerouting of the New England Highway to run from Tenterfield to Wallangarra rather than to Mount Lindesay was due to the construction of a sealed road from Boonah through Cunninghams Gap to Warwick in the early 1950s. The sealed road encouraged much more traffic to travel from Brisbane to Tenterfield via Warwick than via Mount Lindesay and the unsealed route on to Tenterfield.

At the time of the rerouting of the New England Highway to Wallangarra and the naming of the Mount Lindesay Highway, arrangements were made by the NSW Department of Main Roads with the Queensland Main Roads Department to name the onward routes from Wallangarra and Mount Lindesay to Brisbane as the New England and Mount Lindesay Highways respectively. At this time they were allocated the national route numbers of 15 for the New England Highway Hexham-Brisbane and 13 for the Mount Lindesay Highway Brisbane-Tenterfield.

Former allocations[edit]

  • National Route 42 (1974-unknown)
  • (YarramanWarwick)
  • National Highway 15 (1974-unknown)
  • (Warwick-NSW/Qld Border)
  • National Route 15 (1955-1974)
  • National Highway 15 (1974-2013)
  • (NSW/Qld Border-Newcastle)

National highway function[edit]

The national highway network is a subset of the national routes for which the Commonwealth, rather than the state governments, has responsibility for maintenance and upgrading. When the national highway network was established in 1974 national route 15 was designated as part of the national network. This route number covers the New England Highway, from Hexham to Warwick, which is the majority of the highway.

Between Warwick and Tamworth the New England Highway, as well as being part of the national route between Sydney and Brisbane, is also an important interstate link between Queensland and Victoria, connecting to Melbourne via the Oxley Highway to the Newell Highway (which becomes the Goulburn Valley Highway where it crosses the Murray River).

Whilst, as a national highway, the New England Highway is part of the official major route between Sydney and Brisbane, most traffic uses the parallel Pacific Highway. Rapid growth of population and tourism along the NSW North Coast since the 1970s led to the Commonwealth and NSW governments jointly funding reconstruction of the Pacific Highway to freeway standard from the early 1990s onward (see separate entry on the Pacific Highway). As a result, the New England Highway has become the only national highway in Australia with a lower intercapital traffic volume than an alternative route.

Route numbering[edit]

The numbering of the New England Highway is confused by the fact that route names and numbers in Australia are often not contiguous or consistent with each other. In addition, in Queensland there have been numerous name and number changes and extensions to the New England Highway since 1970.

At the time of the rerouting of the New England Highway to Wallangarra and the naming of the Mount Lindesay Highway, arrangements were made by the NSW Department of Main Roads with the Queensland Main Roads Department to name the onward routes from Wallangarra and Mount Lindesay to Brisbane as the New England and Mount Lindesay Highways respectively. At this time they were allocated the national route numbers of 15 for the New England Highway Hexham-Tenterfield-Warwick-Brisbane and 13 for the Mount Lindesay Highway Brisbane-Tenterfield.

In the 1970s, the Queensland Main Roads Department rerouted the designation of the New England Highway north of Warwick to follow the former Lockyer-Darling Downs Highway (national route 17) so that it terminated in Toowoomba. The section of the highway between Brisbane and Warwick was renamed as part of the Cunningham Highway, which until that time had extended only westward from Warwick to Goondiwindi. The rerouted section of the New England Highway from Warwick to Toowoomba was renumbered from 17 to become part of national route 42, which until then also had only extended westward from Warwick to Goondiwindi. In the 1990s, the Queensland Main Roads Department again extended the name New England Highway, north from Toowoomba to the D'Aguilar Highway at Yarraman, but this section carries state route number 85 as far as Hampton, and state route number 61 to Yarraman, rather than a national route number. However north of Toowoomba it carries little traffic and performs a regional rather than a national function.

In September 2012, NSW Roads and Maritime Services announced that it would be introducing alpha-numeric route numbering across New South Wales during early 2013.[2] As part of this scheme the New England Highway will be identified as route A15 from the New South Wales-Queensland border to the northern terminus of the Hunter Expressway at Belford, where it will become route A43 to the end of the highway at Hexham. The route 15 designation will be carried towards Newcastle by the Hunter Expressway (as route M15) to its southern terminus at the Pacific Motorway at Cameron Park, then by Newcastle Link Road, Thomas Street, Newcastle Road, Griffiths Road, Donald Street and Parry Street to the intersection with the Pacific Highway in Newcastle West (as route A15).


From Brisbane, National Highway 15 (green) follows the Cunningham Highway until Warwick where it then follows southwards, the New England Highway ...
... through Armidale, Tamworth, Maitland and Hexham where it joins the Pacific Highway

The first section of the New England Highway west from Hexham to Maitland is dual carriageway, with the towns en route to Maitland bypassed. This section is partially grade separated, and carries heavy amounts of local traffic, with a large proportion of the traffic being trucks. In Maitland the highway continues via a dual carriageway CBD bypass to Telarah, from which point it reverts to single carriageway. Beyond Maitland, the only sections of dual carriageway are through Belford Forest west of Branxton (1998), the 1966 deviation necessitated by the creation of Lake Liddell near Muswellbrook, the crossing of the Liverpool Range at Nowlands Gap immediately north of Murrurundi (stage 1 1994, stage 2 1997), through South Tamworth, and the ascent of the Moonbi Range between Tamworth and Bendemeer (1982).

As far as Muswellbrook the highway carries heavy industrial traffic associated with the extensive coal mining in the Hunter Valley. Duplication of the highway and bypasses of towns as far as Muswellbrook is proposed by the Roads and Traffic Authority, but no funding has yet been allocated for these proposals, and the only bypass for which an alignment has been adopted is that of Muswellbrook. Beyond Muswellbrook traffic volumes do not justify dual carriageways on most sections of the highway. The main substandard sections of the highway are generally in the upper Hunter Valley around Parkville, Wingen and Blandford. Once the highway climbs the Liverpool Range to the Northern Tablelands, most sections provide excellent driving.

In recent years the main upgrading activities in the Highway have been the deviation and duplication through Belford Forest, deviation and duplication over the Liverpool Range immediately north of Murrurundi, the Tamworth CBD bypass (an upgrading of an existing road), the Bendemeer bypass, the Armidale bypass, and deviations at Black Mountain and the Devils Pinch north of Armidale.

Long lengths of the New England Highway are subject to severe frost and snowfall, with the 350 km section from the Moonbi Ranges to Stanthorpe located at high altitudes. The highest point on the Highway is where it crosses the Ben Lomond Range halfway between Armidale and Glen Innes.

Speed cameras have been installed on the New England Highway at:

  • Lochinvar – between Robert Road and Station Lane
  • Scone – between Eveleigh Circuit and Forbes Street
  • Blandford – between Hayles Street and Mills Street
  • Ben Lomond – between Ross Road and Ben Lomond Road
  • Tenterfield – between Duncan Street and George Street.
Intersection of New England Highway and Golden Highway between Branxton and Singleton
Thunderbolts Rocks, New England Highway (south of Uralla), where Thunderbolt conducted some of his robberies.
Statue of Captain Thunderbolt at the intersection of New England Highway and Thunderbolts Way, Uralla, NSW

Highway improvements[edit]

The major projects since the Second World War in the ongoing upgrading of the New England Highway are:[3]

  • Bolivia Hill deviation (Mar 1951)
  • Stanthorpe bypass (1960s)
  • Allora bypass (1960s)
  • Bridge over Pages River at Blandford (previously a ford) (now used for southbound traffic) (Dec 1953)
  • Hexham-Tarro duplication (including Tarro railway overpass) (1964)
  • New bridge over Peel River in Tamworth (replaced 1881 bridge) (Apr 1965)
  • Muswellbrook (north) railway overpass (May 1966)
  • Liddell deviation (including 2 km dual carriageway) to allow creation of Lake Liddell (Jan 1967)
  • Chilcotts Creek deviation (Dec 1968)
  • Harristown/Drayton deviation (1970s).
  • Tarro-Beresfield bypass (dual carriageway) (Oct 1970)
  • Guyra-Llangothlin deviation (Dec 1970)
  • Barleyfields deviation, Uralla (Feb 1980)
  • Beresfield-East Maitland duplication (final stage Aug 1982)
  • First Moonbi Hill duplication (1937 deviation retained as northbound carriageway) (Aug 1982)
  • Widening to four lanes from the Long Bridge Telarah to Harvey Rd Rutherford (Aug 1982)
  • Devil's Pinch deviation stage 1 (Dec 1982)
  • Devil's Pinch deviation stage 2 (May 1983)
  • Reconstruction to four lanes along Kelly St Scone (1985)
  • Bendemeer bypass (Dec 1985)
  • Maitland inner city bypass stage 1 (dual carriageway) (Feb 1986)
  • Deviation at Singleton including new bridge over Hunter River (May 1986)
  • Maitland inner city bypass stage 2 (dual carriageway) (Dec 1986)
  • Tintinhull realignment (Dec 1986)
  • Duplication of 1893 bridge, Hunter River at Aberdeen for northbound traffic (each bridge since reconfigured to one lane only (Dec 1986)
  • Maitland inner city bypass Stage 3 (dual carriageway) (Sep 1988)
  • Tamworth CBD bypass (upgrade of Scott Road) (Nov 1993)
  • Liverpool Range deviation (dual carriageway), Murrurundi-Nowlands Gap (Oct 1994)
  • Tarro interchange (to connect to Anderson Drive) (May 1994)
  • Armidale bypass (Dec 1994)
  • Marowan Creek bridge replacement, Glencoe (1995)
  • Liverpool Range duplication (Nowlands Gap-Kankool) (Jan 1997)
  • John Renshaw Drive interchange (Sep 1997)
  • Belford Forest deviation (dual carriageway) (Oct 1998)
  • Rose Valley Creek deviation (33–36 km north of Tamworth) (2002)
  • Devil's Pinch deviation stage 3 (22–27 km north of Armidale) (2002)
  • Duplicate bridge for northbound traffic, Pages River at Blandford (each bridge configured for one lane only) (2004)
  • Duval Creek realignment (13–15 km north of Armidale) (Dec 2004)
  • Devil's Pinch (Black Mountain) deviation stage 4 (27–30 km north of Armidale) (April 2006)
  • Halcombe Hill deviation (1 km north of Aberdeen) (Aug 2007)
  • Weakleys Drive interchange (2008)
  • Realignment of highway at Tilbuster, near Sunnyside Rd (17–19 km north of Armidale) (Feb 2010)
  • Hunter Expressway (40 km, new freeway standard route, Cameron Park to Belford Forest deviation) (Mar 2014)

Current projects[edit]

  • Maitland roundabout improvements (expected completion mid-2014)
  • Rutherford safety improvements (expected completion Dec 2014)
  • Toowoomba bypass - new bridge near Mount Kynoch (expected completion of bypass Mid/Late 2018)

Future projects[edit]

  • Maitland Railway Station roundabout eastbound overpass (construction expected to begin late-2014, complete late-2015)
  • Belford to Golden Highway - New England Highway Duplication (no date, conceptual only at this stage)
  • Singleton Railway underpass upgrade (no date, preferred route options under investigation)
  • Singleton bypass (no date, conceptual plan only)
  • Muswellbrook bypass (single carriageway, 6 km) (no date, land reserved in council LEP)
  • Scone rail level crossing upgrade (no date, route options under investigation)
  • Bolivia Hill upgrade or deviation, north of Deepwater (no date, conceptual only at this stage)
  • Tenterfield bypass (no date, conceptual only at this stage)

Cities and towns[edit]

From its junction with the Pacific Highway at Hexham, 12 km (7 mi) inland from Newcastle the New England Highway connects the following cities and towns:

New South Wales[edit]


Maitland was the original centre of European settlement in the Hunter Valley. In the early 19th century the focus was on food rather than coal, and the rich river flats around Maitland provided food for the young colony. It was not until the late 19th century that Newcastle eclipsed Maitland as the centre of the Hunter Valley. Nonetheless, Maitland retains a major role as an industrial centre, with a population of 55,000. In 1955 the city was severely damaged by flooding of the Hunter River. To the north of Maitland are the small towns of Greta and Branxton.


Approximate distances in kilometres from Newcastle
New England Highway on the 1st Moonbi Hill.

Singleton is the major centre for the mid-Hunter Region, with 13,000 residents. Although the Singleton district is dotted with vineyards and the town has grown in the past three decades, unlike many other country towns, this was due to employment in the coalmining industry and as a dormitory for Newcastle. A major army base is located nearby. The scenic but isolated Putty Road (state route 69) connects Singleton with Windsor and Sydney's northwestern suburbs.


Muswellbrook is the major centre of the Upper Hunter Valley, with a population of over 12,000. Nearby are two of NSW's two major power stations – Liddell (built 1968) and Bayswater (built 1981), which together account for over 40% of the electricity produced in NSW. The town has wide streets set in a sweeping pastoral landscape, and St Alban's Anglican church in the town was designed by famous English architect Giles Gilbert Scott. Muswellbrook is the centre of major coal mining and wine producing areas, as well as thoroughbred horse breeding and agriculture.


Scone and the nearby town of Aberdeen are renowned for their thoroughbred stud farms, with Scone regarded as the horse capital of Australia. Around Scone the Hunter Valley narrows and the sandstone escarpments enclosing the valley provide a stunning backdrop to the rolling green hills of the valley floor. North of Scone and adjacent to the Highway is Mount Wingen – the Burning Mountain – where a light but constant plume of smoke issues from fissures in the ground, caused by lightning setting fire to coal seams close to the surface tens of thousands of years ago. A little further north is the town of Murrurundi.


Set on the Peel River, Tamworth is one of the largest cities in inland northern NSW with 50,000 inhabitants, and is the centre of a rich agricultural district. It is also a thriving industrial and commercial centre. Famous as the 'Country Music Capital' of Australia and its annual Tamworth Country Music Festival. The Australian Equine and Livestock Events Centre (AELEC) is located on the New England Highway on the southern outskirts of the city. In 1888 it became the first town in Australia to install electric street lighting. The small settlements of Bendemeer and Uralla are located north of Tamworth on the highway.


Located on the Northern Tablelands, Armidale's high altitude of 1,000 metres (3,300 ft) gives it four pronounced seasons. It is also the hub of a thriving pastoral area famous for its high quality wool. The University of New England, established in 1954, and is the main seat of learning in inland northern NSW and is a major employer. The student population makes up a significant proportion of the city's population of 22,000. Armidale features beautiful landscapes, parks and historic buildings. Also of note is the Hinton Art Gallery, which houses the Felton Bequest, a significant collection of work by Australian artists. Guyra is a small town located further north.

Glen Innes[edit]

Glen Innes is a Celtic-flavoured town that owes much to the Scottish settlers who came to the district in the 1830s. A monument commemorates the part they played. 40 km east of Glen Innes along the Gwydir Highway are the world heritage areas of the Washpool rainforests.


Bluff Rock, New England Highway, Tenterfield, NSW

Tenterfield is known as the Birthplace of Federation, being the town where NSW Premier Henry Parkes delivered his Tenterfield Oration, making the case for federation of the colonies into the Commonwealth of Australia. The architecture of the 1886 railway station is of note for its ornateness and excellent state of preservation. It is also the hometown of the entertainer Peter Allen.

Sunnyside rail bridge over Tenterfield Creek, as seen from the New England Highway, 2015

From Tenterfield to the Queensland border, the highway runs adjacent to the New South Wales' main northern railway line. The line is no longer used and the Sunnyside railway bridge's disrepair is clearly visible from the highway.[4]



The New England Highway crosses the State border into Queensland at Wallangarra, famous for the railway break of gauge on the only rail link between Sydney and Brisbane from 1888 until the coastal standard gauge line was completed in 1930. Much of the railway yards needed for transhipping passengers and goods between the trains on the two different gauges remains.


Stanthorpe is located just off the New England Highway, set at a high altitude in granite country and famous for its wineries and orchards. The outstanding Girraween National Park to the south of Stanthorpe has excellent bushwalking and rockclimbing.


A major centre of the Southern Downs with a population of 11,000, Warwick is set in rolling pastoral country on the banks of the Condamine River. Famous for its rose gardens and rodeo. From 15 km north of Warwick, national route 15 turns east to Cunninghams Gap and down into the Brisbane Valley via the Cunningham Highway to reach Ipswich. From here Brisbane is only another 30 km.


With a population of 160,000, Toowoomba is one of Australia's major regional cities, as well as the second largest inland city in Australia . Noted for its beautiful gardens as result of rich volcanic soils, it is home to the University of Southern Queensland and is the commercial and administrative centre of the Darling Downs region.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Munruben". Suburbs. Logan City Council. Retrieved 8 May 2014. 
  2. ^ "Alpha-numeric route numbers". NSW Roads and Maritime Services. Retrieved 3 October 2012. 
  3. ^ "New England Highway (NSW)". Ozroads. Retrieved 16 February 2012. [self-published source]
  4. ^ "Sunnyside rail bridge over Tenterfield Creek". Office of Environment and Heritage. New South Wales Government. Retrieved 6 June 2015. 

External links[edit]