Transport is a crucial driver of economic and social development, bringing opportunities for 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 and solutions that foster 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, boosting prosperity and achieving sustainable 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 many cities, time lost to congestion erodes prosperity. High mobility costs cut the disposable income of the poor who often lack reliable 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). With motorization on the rise, that share is expected to grow dramatically.

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 users’ needs, engaging citizens and improving the quality and efficiency of transport solutions.

Last Updated: Oct 02, 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.

Total World Bank Group transport commitments in fiscal year 2014 (FY14) amounted to US$8.8 billion, of which US$7.3 billion for the Bank (including IBRD/IDA), US$581 million for IFC, and US$911 million for MIGA. In FY14, there were 221 active Bank projects with total net commitments of US$44.4 billion, representing 23 percent of the Bank’s total lending portfolio.

Rural and inter-urban roads remain the largest sub-sector with 42 percent of lending in FY14 (US$3.1 billion). However, the transport sector has rebalanced its portfolio with more operations in urban transport, road safety, aviation, ports, and railways, including projects that aim 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$1.5 billion) in FY14.

To achieve greater impact and results, the World Bank Group collaborates with multiple partners to tackle global 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 other development partners. Recent achievements 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: Oct 02, 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. The first toll road of its kind in Africa (outside South Africa), the 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 project financed by IBRD facilitated the movement of freight between the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and neighboring countries in South East Europe, removing selected border bottlenecks and improving the efficiency and quality of road and rail services along the Trans-European Transport Corridor. Waiting time for cars and buses at the Blace border crossing, for example, was brought down from an average 22 minutes in 2008 to 4.5 minutes in 2012. Freight train processing time dropped from 450 minutes to 90 minutes at rail corridor border stations, reducing rail traffic congestion and increasing the competitiveness of rail freight transport.

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

In Vietnam, a project reduced accident rates in project corridors by 36 percent and deaths 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: Oct 02, 2014

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