Although roads have been used for transport purposes for a considerable period of time, some for many hundred of years, their use did not become fully commercialized until early in the 20th century following the development of the internal combustion engine. The introduction of the mechanically propelled vehicles revolutionized road transport for the carriage of both passengers and goods. The highway mode constitutes the single most important means of transportation. It is the largest conveyor of passengers and the largest producer of passenger revenue. The same is true with respect to freight revenue. Total investment in highway transportation is for greater than in any other segment of the overall system
Road infrastructures are one of the fundamental indicators of the development of the country. Sustainable economic growth is only possible if adequate, safe and reliable road infrastructures are available in the country. Unfortunately, Pakistan did not develop its road infrastructure due to various reasons in the past. Road density of 0.32 Km per sq. Km, one of the lowest in the world, is a clear indicator of the fact. The shifting economic centers of the world and by virtue of Pakistan being geographically place in an ideal region to act as transit hub for Afghanistan and Central Asian States has now compelled the government to address the huge development backlog of the past in a limited time frame.
Pakistan economic development depends on the improvement and modernization of its key transport systems. Transport contributes about 10% to the GDP. Pakistan inland freight and passenger traffic has been growing at an average rate of 10.6% and 4.4% respectively during the 10 years period from 1991 to 2000. Pakistan has about 4.2 million vehicles on the road, growing at about 8% annually. This includes about 2,50,000 commercial vehicles.
Pakistan’s national transport system consists primarily of three modes of transportation namely road, rail and air. Inland water transportation system is basically non – existent and coastal Shipping only serves minor local movements. Pipeline transportation is in its initial stages of development. Pakistan relies overwhelmingly on road transportation to carry the inland freight and passenger traffic. Roads carry approximately 50,000 million ton – Kilometer of freight annually Compared to approximately 5,000 million ton – kilometer and 25 million ton – Kilometer by rail and air respectively. The shares of passenger traffic by road, rail and air are estimated at 90% , 8% and2% respectively. The road serves at the backbone or lifelines of Pakistan’s economy.
The total length of road network in the country is approximately 2,50,000 KMs consisting of 1,45,000 KMs of Paved roads (high type) and 1,05,000 KMs of gravel roads (Low Type). At the country level, the road sector contributes Rs. 207 billion in the revenue over the past five years (1995 – 2000), through a combination of general revenue taxes and user charges/fee’s. National and Provincial highway expenditures totaled Rs. 118 billion over this period. The balance Rs. 89 billion (43 %) was contributed to the governments general revenue.
Pakistan has experienced an enormous traffic growth since independence. The vehicle registration data shows that the number of registered vehicles on roads has grown from 31 thousand to 4.2 million during the period from 1950 to 98. This represents a staggering 13000 percent overall increase. The truck fleet Pakistan has grown from a measure three thousand trucks in 1950 to more than one hundred and twenty thousand trucks in 1998- a phenomenal 4000 percent overall increase. The vehicular traffic on our road network has grown manifold. The traffic growth in Pakistan has primarily been absorbed by the national highway N-5 which to day carries almost 55% of all interurban traffic of the country though its length is less than 1% of the total road network of the country.
Pakistan is gifted by nature with an excellent geo-strategic location. It is at the peripheral of South Asia on one side and the Central Asia on the other. This ideal location makes Pakistan as the most attractive and shortest route for the transit to the Central Asian Republics (CARS). Indian trade to that region in an economical and convenient manner is also dependent on availability of passage through Pakistan.
The National Highway Network. NHA is responsible for National Highways, Motorways and strategic roads. Length of the road network under the jurisdiction of NHA is approximately 8500 KM and comprises primarily of strategic and principal arterial routes that serve inter provincial long distance traffic, including important commercial cities and major freight terminals. Though the length of National Highways is only 3.5% of the entire road network of the country but they carry more than 80% of the country traffic. Provincial Highway department are responsible for approximately 90,000 KM provincial road network and the remaining network comprises of municipal and district roads.
It is important to understand that road infrastructure of any nation is like blood vessels if they are choked or in bad condition nation will seize to work or will have heart attacks in term of loss to economy and national growth.
- Ayub Khan’s Economic Policies for Pakistan – An Assessment
- Development of Road Network and Roads Infrastructure in Pakistan