Many countries lack integrated transportation system plans and infrastructures which would coordinate all means of transport to satisfy the needs of development. Road and rail networks are inadequate; and if inland waterways exist their use may be primitive if they are used at all. In developed countries, the proportion of road to rail transport is not always economical; and in the large metropolitan areas, public passenger transportation systems do not meet the needs of the increasingly densely populated and trafficked urban centres.
To a large degree, road transportation networks are slow to develop because of unfavourable financial and taxing policies, undue favour to railways to carry government sector cargoes, inefficient operations of trucking companies, lack of qualified personnel, inadequate maintenance of physical infrastructure, malpractices and inefficiency of government administrations, rapid changes in technology in developed countries often means spare parts are not available, and high cost of fuels.
Secondary industry is particularly vulnerable to transportation difficulties, for the actual manufacturing process is often no more than a brief act of separation, synthesis or transformation preceded by the lengthy operation of assembling raw materials and fuel and followed by the distribution of the product to its multiple consumers. Economic secondary production consists very largely in the correct choice of a location which will minimize the combined costs of assembly and distribution, and is thus very dependent upon the availability, cost and effectiveness of the transportation system.
[Developing countries] In many of the less developed countries, transport difficulties have been a major force tending to inhibit industrialization altogether. In others, transport difficulties have tended to reinforce those centripetal influences making for industrial concentration, often in coast cities with ports that provide an important transport link with the outside world. In most of the developing countries that have been undergoing industrial expansion in recent years, transport has tended to become a bottleneck, retarding the pace of further development.
This problem is seen in its most striking form in countries such as Afghanistan, Bolivia, Lesotho and Nepal, where terrain reaches up to the highest mountains in the world and makes road construction extremely costly. In such places the high cost of construction is very slowly offset by the economic returns from villages which are set far apart, even though some may be situated in very fertile land, have fine stands of timber or possess other good natural resources. Another difficulty is that many developing countries cannot afford, and perhaps do not need, the sophisticated vehicles of Northern manufacture, although simpler, less expensive, locally designed and manufactured vehicles would also create a demand for adequate roads and highway networks. While developing nations have invested from 15 to 35% of their national budgets to transportation infrastructure, of which three-quarters was spent on roads the networks are only growing at a rate of 0.2 to 9.5% in length. The density of road networks in developing countries is only about 10% of developed countries.