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.
[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.
Impeding the flow of services, goods and people impedes development in the expanded context within which people presently operate. Both goods and people must move freely and rapidly if local socio-economic development is to move beyond the stage of a good idea. This flow must occur among villages, and between the village and the province, the village and the nation, and the village and the world. Meanwhile, it is easier for many to travel to the national capital than it is to journey to the opposite side of the district. When local people discuss with concern the width and surface of the roads, they are pointing to something far beyond what they are able to articulate. Such matters are vitally related to market utility, personal relations and emergency health care. Rural development will not occur if the time and energy drain, the sense of isolation – of being cut off or left out – and the anxiety over emergencies that the modern world creates are not dealt with directly and soon.