The economics of the provision of rural transport services in developing countries
Rural accessibility planning in developing countries over the last few decades has primarily focused on increasing rural communities access to rural roads. It has been considered that road building improves access to health, education, markets and employment opportunities, and hence promotes economic development. It is argued in this thesis that accessibility, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa, has not improved to the desired extent because the problem of mobility, in terms of access to vehicle services, has not been addressed. The provision of rural roads and transport services have been taken as synonymous with each other, but in reality this has not proved to be the case. This thesis attempts to redress that balance by seeking to change the mindset of policy makers to think about mobility and increase the emphasis placed on the promotion of transport services, both motorised and non-motorised. The findings relate to surveys undertaken in Thailand, Sri Lanka, Ghana, Zimbabwe and Pakistan where data were collected on vehicle operating costs (VOC's) and performance for a wide range of commonly used rural vehicles. These included human porterage and non-motorised vehicles such as bicycles and animal transport, as well as motorised vehicles such as conventional trucks and pickups, agricultural tractors and simple engine-powered vehicles. Analysis of the data demonstrated large differences in the VOC's and transport charges for rural transport services between the generally efficient systems in the Asian countries and the inefficient ones in the African countries studied. These findings form the foundation for the development of the Rural Transport Planner (RTP) and the framework which identifies the relationships between transport charges, VOC's, and factors relating to the vehicles operating environment. The RTP provides the first known attempt at producing a model for rural vehicle selection and for recommending interventions to improve the operating environment for rural transport services.