Great Northern Highway Muchea to Wubin Stage 2 Upgrade © Arup; Great Northern Highway Muchea to Wubin Stage 2 Upgrade © Arup;

Great Northern Highway Muchea to Wubin Stage 2 Upgrade, Western Australia

Upgraded major highway improves Western Australia’s freight efficiency

The Great Northern Highway links Fremantle Port and Perth’s CBD to the most northern town of Kununurra in Western Australia, via Newman, Port Hedland and Broome. The highway provides a critical freight route that transports goods throughout the state and to Darwin in neighbouring Northern Territory.   

Heavy vehicles account for a third of traffic using this route. Traffic and freight volumes on this major road have continued to increase, resulting in higher crash rates, transport delays and increased transport costs.

Arup, with Main Roads Western Australia and Jacobs formed an Integrated Project Team (IPT) to deliver the Great Northern Highway (GNH) Muchea to Wubin Stage 2 Project, upgrading 78.6 km of highway across a 218 km section north of Perth.

From planning through to the construction phase we provided project leadership, planning, and contract management services, network operations, geotechnical site investigations and materials sourcing. We also undertook preliminary and detailed designs of roads and bridges, engagement with affected landowners and stakeholders. 

The IPT Led planning phase included a comprehensive planning review, prioritising a series of construction packages. Improvements required included town bypasses, wider roads, more passing lanes, flattening crests and easing curves, safer roadsides, more rest stops and additional facilities for heavy vehicles. All modifications aligned with Main Roads Western Australia road network strategies to improve road safety, network reliability and increase freight efficiency.

Project Summary


$358M upgrade project

218kmsection

140kmof land acquisitions

An Integrated Project Team provides the opportunity to take full advantage of all the skills, experience and project knowledge within the team – one team with shared ownership and objectives. ”

Beth Woods GNH IPT Project Director

The design phase – from concept design, final design and construction support – was an iterative process with continued community and stakeholder consultation and engagement throughout. Building on the already extensive consultation completed at the early planning phase, additional environmental, Aboriginal heritage and European surveys informed key design decisions.

Great Northern Highway Muchea to Wubin Stage 2 Upgrade © Arup Great Northern Highway Muchea to Wubin Stage 2 Upgrade © Arup

The geographic isolation and 218 km length of the project introduced its own challenges. Stakeholder engagement stretched across four local governments, technical advisory groups, and future maintenance groups. A large number of directly affected landowners, covering 140 km of land acquisition required for new and widened road reserves, were consulted. The inclusive design process allowed for preservation of heritage sites and critically endangered habitats along the highway.

The upgraded -highway will be suitable to allow 53.5 m long road trains to travel 218 km closer to Perth (before having to decouple a third trailer) providing significant freight efficiency benefits to Western Australia and the nation.

The bypass of Miling, a small town 200 km north of Perth, has removed heavy freight vehicles from the town’s Main Street and away from the primary school, reducing traffic noise and improving safety outcomes for residents. The bypass of the monastic community of New Norcia has improved street level safety for tourists and locals and will now assist in the long-term preservation of the historical buildings.



The project has provided a great opportunity to collaborate between Arup, Main Roads Western Australia and Jacobs to deliver against the project objectives, thereby providing holistic experience for all team members of the full lifecycle of this major project. ”

Nigel Scott Nigel Scott Associate Principal and GNH IPT Project Director

Main Roads Western Australia adopted the sustainability specification developed on the GNH project in their suite of standard specifications. The IPT trialled the NEC3 Form of Contract making Main Roads Western Australia the first Australian road authority to use NEC3 and provide training to selected tenderers to assist in the preparation of their tenders.

The IPT was also the first program of works in Australia to seek a sustainability rating through the Infrastructure Sustainability Council of Australia (ISCA) rating tool.

The completion of this beautifully built road and bridge has meant that a sense of peace and tranquillity has been restored to the town. ” Father John Herbert Abbot, New Norcia Benedictine Monastery