Sydney Orbital Network

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Map of the Sydney orbital network
The Sydney orbital network.

The Sydney Orbital Network is a 110 kilometre[1] motorway standard ring road or orbital around the city of Sydney, the capital of New South Wales in Australia. It runs north from Sydney Airport, underneath the CBD to the North Shore, west to the Hills District, south to Prestons and then east to connect with the airport. Much of the road is privately owned and financed by tolls.


Planning for this beltway, orbital or ring road began as early as 1962 under the "County of Cumberland scheme" (CCS) and well talked about as far back as 1944. Then from 1973 to 1989 things started to take shape with new sections opening-up and then further advancing by 1999. In 2007, the Lane Cove Tunnel opened, completing the orbital network.

Motorways that make up the orbital road[edit]

The 110 km Sydney orbital consists of several motorways and freeways, they are listed below:

The major sunken/underground sections of the orbital are:

  • Sydney Harbour Tunnel
  • Eastern Distributor
  • M5 East tunnel
  • Epping Tunnel (M2 Hills Motorway, although not really a major tunnel)
  • Sunken Section of the M2 Hills Motorway (The trench between Epping Road)
  • Lane Cove Tunnel

The major elevated sections are:

  • Parts of the Westlink M7
  • Parts of Southern Cross and General Holmes Drive (past the airport)

The widest part of the orbital is the Warringah Freeway approach to the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the longest tunnel is the M5 East tunnel, and the largest interchange is the Light Horse Interchange between the M4 and M7, a 4-level stack. It would cost over $30AU to take the whole orbital without exiting once. The average width of the Orbital is 3 lanes in each direction (The M7 and the M5 East are 2 lanes in each direction, the Lane Cove Tunnel is mostly 3 lanes in direction, however the M2, Gore Hill Freeway and M5 are 3 lanes each way while the Warringah Freeway is between 6-8 lanes each way for its short duration of around 3km).

There is significant upgrade work occurring as part of the WestConnex project, which will see the M5 duplicated (total of 4 lanes each way) along with the addition of new freeways to the Sydney network.


The Sydney Orbital Road Network consists of a number of roads built by private companies: tolling is unavoidable when using the road network.

Road Direction Opened Toll Collection Method Toll Pricing Price Operator
Eastern Distributor Northbound 1999 Electronic Flat rate $7.23 Transurban
M5 South Western Motorway Both 1992 Electronic Flat rate $4.65 Interlink Roads
Westlink M7 Both 2005 Electronic Distance based $0.3996/km - capped at $7.99 Transurban
M2 Hills Motorway Both 1997 Electronic Each direction/ Fixed $7.16 (North Ryde)
$3.58 (Pennant Hills Rd)
$2.53 (Windsor Rd)
$2.12 (Lane Cove Rd)
$3.58 (Herring & Christie Rd)
Lane Cove Tunnel Both 2007 Electronic Flat rate $3.27 Transurban
Sydney Harbour Bridge Southbound 1932 Electronic[2] Time based Weekdays $3.00 (9.30am - 4pm) $4 (6.30am - 9.30am, 4pm - 7pm) $2.50 (7pm - 6.30am); Weekends $3 (8am - 8pm) $2.50 (8pm - 8am) RMS
Sydney Harbour Tunnel Southbound 1992 Electronic Time based Weekdays $3.00 (9.30am - 4pm) $4 (6.30am - 9.30am, 4pm - 7pm) $2.50 (7pm - 6.30am); Weekends $3 (8am - 8pm) $2.50 (8pm - 8am) RMS

Highway links[edit]

Intercity highways are linked to the Orbital, moving traffic away from the old busy National Routes. They are:

Proposed or missing freeway/motorway links[edit]

See also[edit]

Australia road sign W5-29.svg Australian roads portal


External links[edit]