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It is part of the Auslink National Network and is a vital link for road freight to transport goods to and from the two cities as well as serving Albury-Wodonga and Canberra.
The Great South Road was rebuilt and completely re-routed between Yanderra and Goulburn by Surveyor-General Thomas Mitchell in 1833.
Other inland alternate routes include the Olympic Highway route (A41) between Albury and Sydney via Cowra and Bathurst, and also the Federal Highway / Monaro Highway route (M23/A23/B23) via Canberra which links with the Hume Highway near Goulburn and the Princes Highway in East Gippsland.
In New South Wales during 2013, the National Highway shield, National Highway 31, was replaced with a standard alphanumeric route number, the M31 south of Prestons (along with the A22 east of Liverpool into the Sydney CBD and the A28 for a short length through Liverpool).
Although the full length of the Hume Highway is dual carriageway (with at-grade intersections and restricted entry from adjoining land), there are considerable lengths of the highway which are of full freeway standard.
Most of these sections are bypasses of the larger towns on the route, where the need to deviate the route to construct the bypass made it practical to deny access from adjoining land and thus provide full freeway conditions.