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Rural Transport

Rural Transport is a vital 'enabling' component of a developing country economy that will contribute substantially to the achievement of the high profile social and economic Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Rural Transport comprises two distinct elements:

Mobility is characterised by the transport means available - both motorised and non-motorised - for people to transport themselves and their goods, and for services to be provided. The means are typically owned and operated by individuals and the private sector.

Transport Infrastructure is the rural roads, tracks, trails, paths, watercourse structures and footbridges, as well as rural waterways and their transfer facilities. Responsibility for the provision and maintenance of transport infrastructure usually falls to the central or local government, or the communities themselves. Limited availability of government resources often means that the burden of Transport Infrastructure provision and maintenance falls mainly on the poor rural communities; the stakeholders least able to contribute in resource or knowledge terms.

Read the Rural Transport Overview for more information.

Although there is considerable research and information available on improving the various aspects of rural transport, the knowledge is generally dispersed and difficult to access for busy practitioners and other interested persons. gTKP is working to compile knowledge into easily accessible topics and briefings, and to signpost users to where more detailed information may be obtained. gTKP is also a forum for practitioners, researchers and others to contribute and comment on the important issues relating to Rural Transport. The various Discussion Groups will allow comments and contributions to be web-posted to share with others.

Any competent review of an existing Rural Transport system should be able to identify aspects that could be improved, with the currently available resources, or with justifiable additional interventions. Initiatives may be required to secure improvements towards one or more of the following aims:-

  • A National Policy on Rural Transport in place developed after stakeholder consultation.
  • An appropriate institutional framework and agreed responsibilities for Rural Transport policy implementation.
  • Appropriate classification of the road network according to the road task. Including categories of Low Volume Rural Roads (LVRR). LVRR have low volumes of traffic, as defined by four wheel, two and more axle traffic, but may have very high volumes of alternative traffic modes, such as foot, bicycle, motorcycle, ox-cart etc.
  • Appropriate and affordable Standards, Specifications and Guidelines for each category of road, which will enable the application of Rural Road Engineering good practice, including:
    • provision of Low Cost Structures
    • improvement of the natural road surface (Engineered Natural Surfaces) where appropriate, and drainage
    • appropriate use of gravel surface
    • provision of more durable surface options in Spot Improvement - locations or more extensive route lengths where affordable and justifiable
  • environment and sustainability issues accommodated
  • Pragmatic partnerships between communities, government and other stakeholders developed to realise improvements in Rural Transport.
  • Realistic strategies for improving Rural Transport Services in place.
  • Potentials for both motorised and non-motorized transport services recognised and issues of commercial viability, affordability, reliability and safety addressed.
  • Good practice guidelines on planning, design, construction and maintenance in place, using Rural Accessibility Planning tools where appropriate to determine optimal transport and other rural infrastructure investment priorities.
  • Realistic Whole Life Costing methods used to support investment and fund allocation decisions.
  • Environmentally Optimised Design (EOD) strategies in place to include investment options from Basic Access and Spot Improvements through to Whole Link upgrades.
  • Policies, guidelines and implementation making best use of local resources (materials, labour, skills, enterprises, communities, intermediate equipment, etc.)
  • Appropriate and affordable levels of road maintenance established and sustainable financing secured in cooperation with the Finance Ministry.
  • Appropriate contract documentation in use that facilitates local enterprise involvement and use of local resource based methods supported where appropriate by low cost equipment.
  • Pragmatic Supervision and Quality Control arrangements in place.
  • Access by potentially damaging vehicles controlled.
  • Awareness Creation and Training of operatives, decision makers and other key stakeholders funded, available and widely used.
  • Traditional and potential social resources and practices recognised and the role of women and disadvantaged groups satisfactorily accommodated to realise improved performance potential and equity.
  • Monitoring public Rural Transport investments and expenditures carried out routinely to ensure value for money.
  • Appropriate Human Resource Development policies and dedicated resources for the implementation.

An overarching policy concern is the role of transport in poverty reduction.

We aim to address all of the above issues in due course. Some of the foregoing issues are 'cross cutting' and are also addressed under the other gTKP themes.

If you would like to comment or contribute on any Rural Transport issue for discussion or web posting, write to rob.petts@gtkp.com

Rob Petts, the Rural Transport theme champion, has been working in developing countries and those in transition for 34 years principally on research and development of roads and transport systems, with a focus on making the best use of available local resources.

Updated February 2010