The designated rural road network is usually two to three times the length of the main and provincial network, however, on average they carry only about 10% of the total traffic in vehicle-kilometers. Responsibility for these roads is not always clear but normally lies with local government, sometimes supported by a designated central agency. Often, these roads are in bad condition only seasonally passable and poorly maintained. Many communities are still without motorable access at all.
Additionally, there exists a vast network of community tracks, trails, paths and footbridges, of unknown length. Responsibility for this community level infrastructure lies by default with the local population. Transport activities on this infrastructure take place mainly by foot and by non-motorized means of transport.
Rural transport services (RTS) are mainly provided by the private sector. Provision of RTS is often hampered by regulatory constraints (restricted market access, excessive taxation and import restrictions) and unsuitable market structures (existence of cartels, lack of credit facilities and weak private sector). In Africa, due to the above problems and the existing low density of demand, RTS are two to five times more expensive than in Asia.
Non-motorized means of transport, such as bicycles and animal carts, are, besides walking, the main means of transport in rural areas of developing countries. Women and children often bear the brunt of the transport load in terms of time and tonnage.
During 2008-2012, the World Bank will work with all development partners, including the private sector, to channel and catalyze more resources towards investments in transport assets, infrastructure and services. The expected increase in resource mobilization will be matched by the necessary attention to governance; which are important to achieving the objective of sustainable transport. Given the scale and importance of the transport sector, the Bank Group will seek to incorporate more transport governance goals in country strategies. This will be informed by enhancing analytic and advisory activities and promoted through country dialogue, under the Bank Group Governance and Anti-Corruption action plan.
The construction, management, and maintenance of roads and highways will continue to be the dominant subsector for the World Bank's engagement, because of the importance of road transport in most countries for a wide range of development needs, the scale of the investment and maintenance challenge in the subsector, and the need to be responsive to the demands by partner countries. Sustainable Transport identified the importance of access for the rural poor to the road transport system, and the Rural Access Indicator developed by the Bank in the intervening years confirms this critical component of poverty reduction. Rural access and the construction, rehabilitation, and maintenance of rural roads will therefore remain a major priority of the Bank in both physical and policy terms.