ROAD NETWORK IN PAKISTAN

S.M.ABBAS ZAIDI,
(feedback@pgeconomist.com)
Research Analyst
, PAGE
June 7 - 13, 2010

Pakistan has a road network of 258,350 kilometers including 176,589 KM of high type roads and 81,761 KM of low type roads. Total roads which were 229,595 KM in 1996-97 increased to 258,350 KM in 2008-09 indicating an increase of 12.5 per cent.

During the FY09, the length of high type roads were increased by 1.3 per cent but the length of low type road network declined by 2.7 per cent because most of the low types roads have been converted to high type roads. A sizable and consistent improvement in high type road can be observed during 2001-09, where network grew at an average rate of 3.3 per cent.

LENGTH OF ROADS (KILOMETERS)

FISCAL YEAR HIGH TYPE LENGTH % CHANGE LOW TYPE LENGTH % CHANGE TOTAL LENGTH % CHANGE
2003-04 158,543 3.5 97,527 -1.4 256,070 1.5
2004-05 162,841 2.7 95,373 -2.2 258,214 0.8
2005-06 167,530 2.9 91,491 -4.1 259,021 0.3
2006-07 172,891 3.2 88,930 -2.8 261,821 1.1
2007-08 174,320 0.8 84,030 -5.5 258,350 -1.3
2008-09 176,589 1.3 81,761 -2.7 258,350 0

NATIONAL HIGHWAY AUTHORITY

NHA is responsible for development, operation, maintenance and preservation of the national highway network. NHA has to secure delivery of efficient, reliable, safe and environment friendly national highway network with a view to improve quality of life in Pakistan. NHA network plays a major role in reducing transportation costs and increasing access to markets for local produce and products.

DESCRIPTION NO KM
i) National Highways 20 9280
ii) Motorways 7 1930
iii) Expressways 3 384
iv) Strategic Roads 3 262
Total 33 11856

The NHA looks after nearly all of Pakistan's major inter-provincial road links called the national highways. National Highway represents main transport corridors linking ports to major population centers and to neighboring/regional countries: Afghanistan, China, Iran and India. National Highway takes 80 per cent of the traffic load presently comprising 33 national highways, motorways, expressways, strategic roads. The length of this network was 6564 km in 1991 when NHA was created. The current length stands at 11856 km in 2008-09.

The network also includes more than 5000 bridges, interchanges and flyovers and about 15000 culverts. Around 75 per cent of NHA network is 2-lane, 20 per cent is 4-lane and 5 per cent is 6-lane. Substantial portion of this network has reached or is reaching its capacity and will be excessively overburdened within the next 5 years.

OPERATION & MAINTENANCE (O&M)

NHA is emphasising preservation of the existing highway infrastructure/ safety. The endeavor is to operate and maintain the network in worthy and safe condition at optimum expenses, ensuring user's satisfaction. The network is, however, burdened by immense traffic and is insufficient to meet the growing needs. Since road Operation and Maintenance (O&M) activities are dependent on toll special attention is being given to enhance the efficiency of tolling system and revenue management through installation of Electronic Toll and Traffic Management (ETTM) Systems under a phased program. NHA's current annual maintenance need is close to Rs16 billion, whereas, resources available for financial year 2008-09 was less than Rs11 billion (primarily toll). Because of this factor and depletion in purchase value of rupee due to abnormal price hike/inflation, it is apprehended that maintenance backlog of more than Rs84 billion would be created during the next seven years if NHA's maintenance resources are not augmented. To partly bridge the gap in maintenance need and resources, NHA recently rationalised toll rates on different highways through 20 percent increase in toll for trucks, 25 per cent for buses and 50 per cent for cars. However, the road user would benefit more through improvement in condition of the road network and reduction in overall vehicle operating cost. The rationalisation of rates will enhance NHA's revenue by around Rs1800 million in financial years 2009-10.

TOLL PLAZAS

A total of 98 toll plazas are currently approved for the NHA network, out of which 84 are operational. The responsibility for O&M of most of these toll plazas was entrusted to Frontier Works Organisation (FWO) National Logistic Cell (NLC). However, NHA has commenced privatisation of toll O&M through open competition. The 26 toll plazas vacated by FWO/NLC are being handed over to private toll operators on guaranteed revenue basis. It is anticipated that this measure will add NHA's toll revenue to the tune of Rs543 million during financial year 2009-10.

ROAD SAFETY

Road safety crisis needs to be fully recognised and all public agencies as well as private sectors need to play their role in strengthening road safety. Appropriate resources should be allocated to improve safety which is currently far below than the magnitude of problem.

Road traffic crashes are predictable and therefore preventable. In order to combat the problem, there is a need for close coordination and collaboration, using a holistic and integrated approach, across many sectors and many disciplines. National Road Safety Secretariat structure should be extended up to district level to achieve road safety objectives at grass root level.

RECOMMENDATIONS

Transportation agencies in Pakistan are facing severe funding and professional capacity constraints. Just policy formulation is not sufficient to achieve the desired goal of reducing road deaths and injuries in the country, unless backed by financial support for its implementation. While there are many interventions that can save lives and limbs, sustained political will and commitment along with establishment of National Road Safety Fund are essential without that little could be achieved. Road users in Pakistan deserve better and safer road travel.