Need For A Road

A road without users will no more bring about development than a school with no teachers will produce literacy. Roads came into being to facilitate the movement of wheeled vehicles. They are of course useful for pedestrians or pack animals but it is unlikely that their improved mobility alone would be sufficient to cover the cost of building and maintaining a road. By making it easier for motor vehicles to operate, a good road can reduce their operating costs or enable them to travel to places they could not before. However, unless the owners actually seize the opportunity to improve transport services or cut fares, they will simply pocket the savings and the people served by the road will benefit little. If the owners pass at least a fraction on to users, then we can expect a multiplier effect as individuals exploit the increased mobility available to them, for example, by marketing perishable products.

In poor countries things have not always worked out as hoped. Private transport, which allows users to take advantage directly of a better road, is rare, particularily in Africa. Public service vehicle owners often cannot improve services since their vehicles are too old and decrepit and they cannot afford additional ones. Even when they can people cannot take advantage because of lack of money to pay the fare, of markets to sell their products in, or more commonly, because they do not need a motor vehicle, or even a road, to get to the facilities they used the most.

People travel for many reasons. However, it is obvious,when local monetary incomes are low, that people will use services they can walk to. Only in an emergency will a motor vehicle be used. Furthermore, low incomes make people unwilling to take the inevitable risk attendant on seizing new opportunities. A stalemate results. The road stays little used and since the meagre savings it provides to users do not cover the costs of maintenance, the road lapses back to its original state.

This state of affairs can be avoided if more attention is devoted at the planning stage to determining where people actually travel to, which places or activities they would like to be more accessible and what measures need be taken so that they can profit from the road. Often more modest investments in appropriate means of transport , simple improvements in footpaths and tracks, or in better coverage of basic services, can have a more durable impact.

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