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Transport Overview

Transport is a crucial driver of development, bringing socio-economic opportunities within the reach of the poor and enabling economies to be more competitive. Transport infrastructure connects people to jobs, education, and health services; it enables the supply of goods and services around the world; and allows people to interact and generate the knowledge that creates long-term growth. Rural roads, for example, can help prevent maternal deaths through timely access to childbirth-related care, boost girls’ enrolment in school, and increase and diversify farmers’ income by connecting them to markets.

Although the sector is crucial to reducing poverty, sharing prosperity and achieving development goals, transport is also at the heart of critical development challenges:

  • Rapid urbanization and motorization: Cities are expected to hold 5.2 billion residents by 2050. Over the next 20 years, more cars may be built than in the auto industry’s 110-year history.
  • Accessibility and affordability:  An estimated one billion people in low-income countries still lack access to an all-weather road. In cities, time lost to congestion erodes prosperity. High mobility costs cut the disposable income of the poor in many cities that lack formal and affordable public transportation.
  • Air pollution and road safety: More than 1.2 million people are killed and up to 50 million are injured on the world’s roads every year. Low and middle-income countries account for 90 percent of the deaths although they own just half the world’s motor vehicles. Urban air pollution, largely linked to transport, leads to the death of an estimated 800,000 people each year.
  • Climate change: Transport contributes about 15 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions (IPCC 2007). With motorization on the rise, that share is expected to grow.

As the developing world rapidly urbanizes, there is an opportunity to build safer, cleaner and more affordable transport systems that reduce congestion, facilitate access to jobs and lower transport energy consumption. In emerging mid-size cities, where most of the new urban dwellers will live, city planners have an opportunity to design sustainable and inclusive transport systems from the start, leapfrogging more polluting and costly modes. In older or larger cities, technology and data management is helping better map travel patterns and needs, engage citizens and improve the quality and efficiency of transport solutions. 

Last Updated: Mar 10, 2014

The World Bank’s strategy in the transport sector, adopted in 2008, envisioned mobility solutions for developing countries that would be safer, cleaner and more affordable. Those three principles still guide the Bank’s infrastructure investments and transport policy work as it seeks to respond to evolving challenges in road safety, climate change, rapid urbanization, and poverty reduction.

Total World Bank Group transport commitments in fiscal year 2013 (FY13) amounted to US$5.9 billion, of which US$5.4 billion for the Bank (IBRD/IDA), US$440 million for IFC, and US$65 million for MIGA. In FY13, there were 220 active IBRD/IDA projects with total net commitments of US$40.2 billion, representing 23 percent of the Bank total.

Rural and Inter-Urban Roads remains the largest sub-sector with 60 percent of lending in FY13 (US$3.2 billion). However, the transport sector has rebalanced its portfolio with new operational activities in urban transport, roads, aviation, ports, and railways, with projects aiming to improve trade competitiveness. Urban Transport is a growing business for the Bank, increasing its financing share from 10 percent ($893 million) in FY11 to 19 percent (US$1 billion) in FY13.

To achieve greater impact and results, the World Bank Group collaborates with multiple partners to tackle common challenges.

The World Bank-led Global Road Safety Facility, for example, is working with seven other Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs) to harmonize road safety practices in client countries. The MDBs are committed to helping achieve the goals of the UN Decade of Action for Road Safety (2011–2020) which aims to save five million lives and avoid 50 million serious injuries by 2020.

The World Bank’s Africa region also hosts the Africa Transport Policy Program (SSATP) a partnership of 40 countries across all Africa (North and sub-Saharan), 8 regional economic communities, African institutions, the private sector and development partners. Recent knowledge products include a framework for improving railway sector performance in Africa; guidelines for mainstreaming road safety in regional trade corridors; and transport governance indicators for sub-Saharan Africa.

Last Updated: Mar 10, 2014

In Senegal, the Dakar Diamniadio Toll Highway, inaugurated in August 2013, has already provided significant benefits to the Dakar metropolitan area, the country's economic heart. Travel times between downtown Dakar and Diamniadio were slashed from about 90 to 30 minutes, reducing the cost of congestion (estimated at 4.6 percent of Senegal's GDP). The first toll road of its kind in Africa (outside South Africa), the Dakar - Diamniadio project mobilized financing from IDA, IFC, AfDB and the French Agency for Development as well as the private sector in a public-private partnership that shows potential for replication elsewhere in the region. IDA took the lead on social issues to mitigate the impacts of resettling 4,500 households and 1,200 business units, and to rehabilitate the neighborhood crossed by the toll road, with a focus on flood protection.

A $20 million trade and transport facilitation project financed by IBRD facilitated the movement of freight between the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and neighboring countries in South East Europe, by removing selected border zone bottlenecks and improving the efficiency and quality of road and rail services along the Trans-European Transport Corridor X. Waiting time for cars and buses at the Blace border crossing, for example, was brought down from an average 22 minutes (entrance and exit times combined) in 2008 to 4.5 minutes in 2012. Freight train processing time dropped from 450 minutes to 90 minutes at rail Corridor X border stations, reducing rail traffic congestion and increasing thecompetitiveness of rail freight transport.

In India, the Mumbai Urban Transport Project (MUTP) took on the challenge of modernizing transport in an ever growing city. The multi-modal approach increased the capacity of roads, buses and trains to keep up with urban migration. The project provided over 19,000 families and shop owners access to permanent housing or commercial space and basic urban services. Modern traffic management systems  were introduced to reduce congestion on Mumbai’s choked roads.   

In Vietnam, a project reduced accident rates in project corridors by 36 percent, and fatalities rate by 61 percent between 2005 and 2013. The project delivered 34,000 safety helmets to schools, completed a comprehensive national road safety campaign and trained 150 road engineers to act as Road Safety Auditors. In Argentina, a road safety project also contributed to saving lives: road crash fatalities declined by 12.5 percent in 2008-2011, even though the number of registered vehicles rose by 15 percent in the same period. 

Last Updated: Mar 10, 2014

Around The Bank Group

Find out what the Bank Group's branches are doing on Transport.