CWN

Transport infrastructure around the Commonwealth

An efficient transport sector with advanced infrastructure is an important element of any economy, helping to stimulate development and enhancing the welfare of a country’s people.

In Commonwealth Europe, the UK has a highly integrated and advanced system of airports, seaports, rail and road networks and a substantial portion is privatised. Almost the same can be said of other member states in the region Malta and Cyprus except that they do not have rail.

Maritime transport is the main mode of commercial transport for the Caribbean, coming in at a relatively high cost. Rail transport is virtually non-existent. Caribbean member states have a total of about 50,000km of roads, half of which are paved. All Caribbean airlines serve North America, a region of vital importance with regards to tourism. Numerous calls have been made to ‘free up the skies’ in this predominantly state-owned sector.

Lack of adequate transportation infrastructure is among the main bottlenecks to productivity growth, competitiveness and regional integration in Commonwealth Africa. Road transport is the most dominant form of transport. Overall for the entire continent, including non-Commonwealth countries it accounts for 80% of the goods traffic and 90% of the passenger traffic. The rail sector is less developed and mostly disjointed; you cannot get trains from South Africa to Ghana or from Gambia to Kenya. Maritime transport is the most dominant mode of freight transport to and from Africa, 50% of which passes through ports of Commonwealth member state South Africa and non-member state Egypt.

There are no railways on any Pacific island countries. Road transport is generally adequate but only in the urban areas. Marine transport is vital for the transportation of goods, imports, exports both domestic and regional. It is naturally cheaper in comparison to air transport – the only other way to get to the rest of the world. Most of the main airports cannot accommodate large aircraft. On the other hand, the transport system in the rest of the Commonwealth Pacific, New Zealand and Australia is highly developed. Australia, especially, is involved in some of the biggest (multi-billion US dollar) transport infrastructural projects in the Commonwealth and world.

Canada, a Commonwealth member state in North America, has extensive transport links with the rest of the world servicing its international trade and passenger travel. Its internal system is advanced with 1.4 million km of road and a 57,000km privately owned railway. The 7,821km TransCanada Highway is the longest national highway in the world.

Overall, road transport is the primary mode of transport in South Asia, as it is throughout the world; maritime transport is also a dominant mode of transport, in terms of carrying international trade. At least half of the roads are paved in most of the region with the exception of Bangladesh, where it is less than a tenth. India, Pakistan and Bangladesh inherited an integrated transport infrastructure at independence which is now fractured by partitioning and politics. Transnational rail traffic in the region encounters a variety of border restrictions. There are, however, several proposed projects to develop internal systems and regional links.

Commonwealth member states in South East Asia have a relatively integrated transport system. Transport policy coordination is very high on the agenda of regional organisation ASEAN. Most roads in member countries are paved. As in most countries maritime transport has importance in trade. Singapore’s port is one of the busiest in the world. Rail transport is a very minor mode of transport in Malaysia and non-existent in Brunei. Singapore has a highly advanced mass transit railway system. The region has well developed air connections with rest of the world.