As we are going to talk about the 11 Countries with the Best Road Infrastructure in the World, it would be a good idea to take you on the road to understanding what infrastructure means. Infrastructure can be considered the skeleton on which a country’s economy is supported. These are the basic facilities that help its citizens and its industries to communicate, connect, and meet the demand-supply gaps. Infrastructure consists of roads, railways, water transport, telecommunication, power, air transport and urban infrastructure. Lifestyles are defined primarily by the availability and quality of the infrastructure. Furthermore, most of the economic indicators point towards the development of the infrastructure in a country. A country can try to accelerate growth by spending more on building infrastructure, which in turn increases demand for capital goods, employment, per capita income – which in turn put more money in the economy. Just like well-developed infrastructure can bring prosperity to a region, as they do, for example, in China, an absence of adequate infrastructure can push any region towards poverty as, for example, in Sudan.
Roads form an integral part of the infrastructure. Air transport is fastest (considering we are yet to reach teleportation age), water transport is most economical means to transport cargo, while railways provide cheaper and comfortable means of transport for citizens. However, roads provide the last mile connectivity, which is basically the connectivity from the origin to the destination. All other means of transportation require road connectivity to supplement them. More importantly, roads reach the remotest parts of the world, connecting the rural and underdeveloped population with the rest of nation. It helps in evacuating the produce from such remote location to the urban areas where it will be consumed, and, in return, essential products and facilities can reach the rural areas. The importance of a good road network is evident from the disparity between the developed nations and the third world countries. The USA – with 6,586,610 km of paved roads – has a total GDP of $17.42 trillion. Niger has only 18,949 km of paved roads, and it has a GDP of $8.169 billion.
Understanding development road sector helps businesses and citizens in understanding the policy initiatives taken by the incumbent governments and the likely impact on the overall economic scenario. Furthermore, many other industries are dependent on the road sector. Road construction provides employment to a skilled and unskilled workforce, generates opportunities for equipment manufacturers, generates revenue for the government by way of tolls and other taxes, boosts real estate development along the route and more importantly, as stated earlier, helps boost trade for the region.
Road infrastructure is the collective term given the structures that make the roadways like the main paved/unpaved sections of the road, the side areas that are called shoulders, various structures like flyovers, bridges, and facilities to drain the water from its surface. Roads are classified based on the categories like national highways/expressways (which are primarily high-speed corridors that are connecting important trade centers/business centers or capitals of state), state highways that primarily connect important places between districts in a state, district roads that connect important centers within a district, and rural roads that are important in a sense that they are probably the only means for the rural population to connect to the urban centers via intermediate points. Roads can also be classified by the materials used for constructing it, like asphalt roads (flexible pavement roads) and concrete roads (rigid pavement roads).
Construction of roads is equally important as maintaining the roads and keeping the service level of the roads at the desired level of operations. Poorly maintained roads adversely affect the system as they damage the vehicles and in turn the passengers can increase pollution level due to poorly maintained vehicles and most importantly drain the public funds in repairs. Roads that are not being well maintained can also cause accidents and result in loss of lives and properties. Driving on a well constructed and well-maintained road is always pleasure, and many times treacherous and damaged roads can give rise to cases of road rages among the drivers. To understand which are the countries having best roads, do read our article on 11 Countries with the Best Roads in the World.
All these factors were considered while ranking the 11 countries with the best road infrastructure in the world. Our methodology and factors we’ve considered are explained briefly in the following paragraphs.
The Length of Roads – The length of the roads, though in absolute terms, cannot determine the development of the road infrastructure in a country, it surely does show the amount of efforts put in, by respective countries, in providing its citizens fast and efficient mode of traveling. Furthermore, for a country with a large geographical area, the existence of a large road network conveys the progress made by the country in promoting economic activities to wider areas. This ranking system uses the length of the road in absolute terms as well as by finding out road density and by finding out the length of the road per capita.
The Quality of Roads– It’s not enough for a country to have just more roads or long routes. A road is made for fast, smooth and safe movement of vehicles. As such, any motorable road should be built of serviceable quality, and it should meet the requirements as set by its designers. According to a report, in India in 2012, approximately $16.71 billion was lost in one year due to the poor condition of roads. Furthermore, poor quality of roads cause damage to the vehicle, adversely affect psychological health of drivers, and it can also damage the environment by causing more pollution due to excess fuel consumption. As the quality of roads is a subjective matter, we have used data provided by World Economic Forum on this subject. We ‘ve ranked each country on the scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the highest ranking.
The Percentage of Paved Roads out of the Total Length – Roads connect two destinations with the shortest possible route between the two. However, the shortest possible distance is not always the straight line due to various obstacles like hills, rivers and so on. In such a case, paved roads assist the drivers in traversing the distance in shortest possible time by providing a comfortable and smooth driving surface. Also, having more high-quality paved roads reduces the other effects like operation and maintenance costs spent by the governments over the life-cycle of the roads, wear, and tear of the vehicles. It further saves the time taken for transporting the goods and people, thereby accelerating the economic activities. In ranking the countries, we’ve considered the percentage of paved roads out of the total length of the roads in that country.
Expenditure on Roads as % of GDP- Apart from investments required for the construction of new roads, maintaining existing roads requires periodic repairs and upgradation works. Rains have serious effects on road surfaces. In countries having snowfalls, governments spend on clearing roads of snow and keeping it motorable. Accidents, water run-off, and heavy vehicles damage the road surface. In some of the countries, to maintain the serviceability, after every 2 to 5 years asphalt roads are resurfaced, whereas some of the roads require repairs due to potholes and poor workmanship during the construction phase. In all, substantial investments are required to build and maintain a good road infrastructure and we have used this as one of the ranking criteria, too. It should be mentioned here that, data on expenditure for most of the countries is not readily available in public domain, and even if available, it is not updated information. We have tried to find as accurate information and have used financial methods to estimate the expenditure made by each country. The investments in roads are further noted as % of the total GDP in order to get more realistic rankings that would normalize the effects of large spending by countries like the USA.
The Length of Road per Capita (per 1000) tries to understand transport planning efforts by the respective countries. A lower per capita figure means the network in that country is not able to keep pace with the growing population needs. In such cases, there is excess pressure on the existing infrastructure, resulting in the inefficient transport network and in deteriorating the quality of road infrastructure.
The countries are ranked based on individual scores for each of the parameters, and overall ranks were worked out based on the following formula:
Final Score = 20%*SL+ 15%*SRD+30%*SQ+10%*SP+15%*SE+10%*SPC
SL- Score as per Length of Road ranking
SRD Score as per Road Density ranking
SQ– Score as per Quality of Roads Ranking
SP Score as per Paved Roads ranking
SE Score as per Expenditure on roads ranking
SPC Score as per Road length per Capita
Road safety, primarily measured by agencies like WHO, concerning road fatalities is an important factor in considering the overall quality of the road network. However, it is not possible to categorically state that poor road safety record is due to bad road infrastructure because negligence by drivers and pedestrians (and animals too in certain cases) can also be the cause of road accidents. Hence, this parameter was not used in ranking the countries with the best road infrastructure in the world.
We’ve ranked each country using all the parameters mentioned above and narrowed down the list of the countries to 40 countries that scored the highest in all the parameters except for expenditure on roads parameter. Further research was conducted on these 40 countries to find out the investments/expenditure on roads, and based on these ranks, overall ranks for each country are: