Transport in Asia and the Pacific: 12 Things to Know

Feature | 14 March 2012

Asia's rapidly growing economies require significant investments in transport infrastructure and services, plus policies and strategies to promote sustainable transport. Here are some issues that continue to challenge this sector.

  1. Transport is a key pillar of the economy.
    Transport typically contributes 5-10% of gross domestic product (GDP). Its economic significance is even greater because transport is an intrinsic element of nearly all other economic activities - without transport their value would be greatly reduced.
    Source: The Geography of Transport Systems
  2. Transport plays a key role in poverty reduction and inclusive growth.
    By improving connectivity and making movements of goods and people more affordable, transport contributes to economic growth, efficiency and competitiveness, and provides poor people with increased access to economic opportunities and services.
    Source: Assessing the Impact of Transport and Energy Infrastructure on Poverty Reduction
  3. Modern forms of transport evolved as part of industrialization.
    Advanced mechanized transportation emerged during the industrial revolution, 1750-1850. The invention of the steam locomotive by George Stephenson in 1814 led to railways becoming the dominant mode of land transport for the next 100 years. Steam ships emerged around the same time, transforming ocean shipping and trade. After Henry Ford introduced assembly line production of automobiles in 1908, road transport gradually become the dominant mode of land transport.
    Source: About.com - The History of Transportation
  4. Most of the world's great transport systems were developed by the private sector.
    This includes most of the railways in Europe, North and South America, and the Indian subcontinent - although some were later nationalized and became state enterprises. The major international shipping lines and the automobile manufacturing industry were also developed privately. The exception is road infrastructure which has often been treated as a public good and planned and developed by the government (in some countries this is also true of ports.
    Sources: A Nation of Steel: The Making of Modern America, Britain and American Railway Development, The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World, Six Men Who Built The Modern Auto Industry
  5. In the next decade, the countries of Asia and the Pacific will need to invest $2.5 trillion for transport alone.
    Source: Infrastructure for a Seamless Asia
  6. The human costs of road transport are very high.
    Road congestion causes lost time and higher transport costs. This is estimated to cost 2-5% of GDP in developing Asia. Respiratory ailments and other diseases due to vehicle-related air pollution lead to 500,000 premature deaths each year, costing 2-4% of GDP. There are more than 700,000 road accident fatalities in Asia each year, as well as millions of injuries due to road accidents. These are estimated to cost more than 3% of GDP.
    Source: Urban Transport, Managing Asian Cities,Arrive Alive: ASEAN Regional Road Safety and Action Plan (2005-2010)
  7. Transport will be the key to reducing global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.In 2009, transport was responsible for 23% of global GHG emissions compared with 41% for energy. But by 2035 transport is expected to become the single largest GHG emitter accounting for 46% of global emissions, and by 2050 it is set to reach 80%.
    Source: Turning the Right Corner Ensuring Development through a Low-Carbon Transport Sector
  8. Today motorization is still at an early stage in developing Asia.
    Vehicle ownership in developing Asia is typically in the range of 10-30 vehicles per 1,000 population, compared with 600-800 in many advanced countries. By adopting sustainable transport systems - with less reliance on private motor vehicles and more use of high quality public transport - Asia can meet its transport needs with lower motorization than in advanced countries.
    Source: Changing Course in Urban Transport: An Illustrated Guide
  9. Sustainable transport is the new paradigm in the transport sector.
    Over the past decade many countries have adopted transport policies and strategies to promote sustainable transport. These include members of the European Union and OECD, and developing countries in South America and Asia. ADB's Sustainable Transport Initiative, approved in 2010, has re-focused ADB transport operations to support sustainable transport, with 30% of transport lending to be for urban transport and 25% for railways by 2020.
    Source: Sustainable Transport Initiative Operational Plan
  10. Mass rapid transit systems are increasingly viable for a larger spectrum of cities.
    There are already more than 140 Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) systems in the world and nearly an equal number of urban rail systems.
    Source: Changing Course in Urban Transport: An Illustrated Guide
  11. Inland shipping has great potential as a cost effective, green transport mode.
    The potential of existing natural and man-made waterway networks has been neglected in many countries, including in Asia. Many of the world's leading companies are now stepping up their use of inland water transport as it can offer the least cost, least emission mode for bulk freight and container traffic. ADB studies indicate that one motorized cargo vessel with a load of 5,000 tons on the Yangtze River of the People's Republic of China carries as much cargo as 50 railway cars at 100 tons each or 200 trucks at 25 tons each.
    Source: Inland Waterway Transport (IWT)
  12. Adopting proven safety measures greatly reduces road crash fatalities and injuries.
    Wearing a motorcycle helmet correctly can reduce the risk of death by almost 40% and the risk of severe injury by 70%, while wearing a seat-belt reduces the risk of fatality among front seat passengers by 40-50%. If correctly installed and used, child restraints reduce deaths among infants by approximately 70% and deaths of small children by between 54% and 80%.
    Source: Global Status Report on Road Safety, WHO