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It was named after Hamilton Hume, who with William Hovell were the first Europeans to traverse an overland route between Sydney and Port Phillip, in what later became Victoria.
Duplication works on the highway began in the 1960s and concluded in 2013.
Any settlement would have to await the construction of an adequate access track, which would have been beyond the colony's resources at the time, and would have served little purpose as a source of supplies for Sydney, due to the time taken to reach Sydney.
In 1804, Charles Throsby penetrated through the Bargo brush to the country on the tablelands near Moss Vale and Sutton Forest.
Governor Lachlan Macquarie ordered the construction of a road, which became known as the Great South Road (the basis of the northern end of the Hume Highway) in 1819 from Picton to the Goulburn Plains and he travelled to Goulburn in 1820, but it is unlikely that even a primitive road was finished at that time.
The Great South Road was rebuilt and completely re-routed between Yanderra and Goulburn by Surveyor-General Thomas Mitchell in 1833.
The main Hume Highway effectively commences at the junction of the M5 South Western Motorway and the Westlink M7 at Prestons.
In the first twenty years of European settlement at Sydney (established 1788), exploration southwest of Sydney was slow.
The Hume Highway, inclusive of the sections now known as the Hume Freeway and Hume Motorway, is one of Australia's major inter-city national highways, running for 840 kilometres (520 mi) between Melbourne in the southwest and Sydney in the northeast.
From north to south, the road is called the Hume Highway in metropolitan Sydney, the Hume Motorway between Prestons and Berrima, the Hume Highway elsewhere in New South Wales and the Hume Freeway in Victoria.
In 1914 the NSW section of the highway was declared a main road.
Until it was named the Hume Highway in 1928 it was known as the "Great South Road" in NSW and "Sydney Road" in Victoria.