Tatiana Bokova, Intern of the Russian National Committee on BRICS Research – special for InfoBRICS
Transport, as an element of the material infrastructure, contributes significantly to the economic development not only of the country but also of each region. Transport plays an essential role since, first, it creates workplaces; second, it facilitates trade not only within a country but also beyond its borders, and contributes to various inter-regional and inter-state communications. Moreover, transport connects factors of production in a complex network of producer-consumer relations. Every year nations, including BRICS members such as Russia, Brazil and South Africa, develop and improve their country's transport systems.
Russia is the largest state in the world, with over 17 million km2. Transport plays an essential role in such a large country, naturally assisting in the movement of freight, passenger transport, and so on. Currently, Russia has one of the largest and most complex transportation systems comprising highways, railways, airlines, trunk pipelines, navigable river, lake and sea routes.
The most common means of transport in the Russian are motorways, railways and pipelines, which account for 98.4% of all freight shipments. According to the latest data, total freight traffic has reached 5669.1 billion tonne-kilometres and airlines could carry over 128 million passengers, around one-third of the total passenger traffic.
Rail transport accounts for the largest share of passenger numbers, at 82%, mainly due to relatively low cost of transportation, as well as the accessibility of this means of transport. The total length of active railways in Russia is over 85,000 km. Russian Railways has most of Russia's railway assets, owning 99% of the infrastructure industry.
Road transport is also well developed. According to the latest data, the total length of Russia's roads has reached 1.529 million km. Every year, Russian cities are building more roads and highway connections. Public transport is also very important and popular. There are over 10 thousand bus routes between the cities, which carry over 700 million passengers each year. Public transport in Russia is widely available to use. Big cities like Moscow and St. Petersburg have dozens of heavily used bus, metro and tram lines; in fact, in Moscow alone, it makes an average of 19 million public transport journeys each day.
The government is taking steps to improve the environment, therefore electric vehicles are being introduced as public transport. For example, there are more than 1,000 electric buses in Moscow now, which is one of the largest fleets of electric buses in Europe. A non-classical means of transport is pipeline transport - the most promising, strategic area with a global impact on all world politics. At the moment, 90% of Russian oil and almost all-natural gas are transported through pipelines. Today there are 75 pipelines in Russia.
Regarding investments in transport infrastructure, the number of public investments in Russia is about 2.2-2.4% of GDP annually. According to the latest data, 1.300 trillion roubles have been allocated for the development of transport systems. Roads make up the largest category of spending, followed by railways. Investing in transport development programmes and national projects, the state benefits by increasing the profitability of labour, saving energy and other material resources that cover costs, contributing to the state's economic growth, increasing competitiveness in the market, etc.
An extensive network of routes and motorways, which exceeds 1.8 million kilometres, mainly defined Brazil's transport system. However, as in other countries, it is supported by a system of water, rail and air transport.
Brazil has the tenth-largest railway network in the world, with a length of nearly 29,000 km, whose construction began in 1854, and over 50,000 km of waterways. There are 37 important ports in Brazil, among which the major port of Latin America is Porto de Santos, São Paulo. As for air transport, São Paulo also has the most significant airport in South America, the Guarulhos International Airport, which has the highest passenger traffic. São Paulo also has the largest public road transport system in Brazil, stretching over 35,000 km.
In terms of urban transport, almost all of Brazil's cities have a bus system, and the larger ones can be reached by high-speed metro or train. Besides urban transportation, cycling is becoming more and more popular every year. The Brazilian government is investing in better facilities for cyclists and introducing bike-sharing programmes in cities such as Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo and Belo Horizonte.
The Brazilian government strives to invest in transport infrastructure every year. Since the middle of the 20th century, investments in the transport sector have mainly been concentrated in road systems. In 2012, the government launched the Logistics Investment Programme (PIL), which involved linking railways, roads, waterways, airports and other means of transport. In 2019, the Brazilian government launched an initiative to invest in urban public transport. Brazil's Ministry of Regional Development and the National Bank for Economic and Social Development (BNDES) signed an agreement to gather information for medium- and high-capacity public transport projects in Brazilian megacities with a population of over 1 million.
South Africa's transport system is the most developed among African countries, and it plays an essential role in promoting economic development not only in its own country but also in its neighbouring states. Like Brazil, railways and roads dominate South Africa, while air and water transport is also developing rapidly.
South Africa has the longest rail and road network in Africa. For example, the latest figures show that South Africa has 276 000 km of roads and 34.1 000 km of railways, more than half of which are electrified. The rail network also connects South Africa to neighbouring countries, with one line leading to Namibia, the other to Botswana and Zimbabwe, and the third linking Johannesburg to the port of Maputo. The highways have an annual passenger volume of around 4.5 million and a freight volume of 3.1 million.
Other means of transport are also worth noting, as they are an integral part of South Africa's national economy. The shipping industry is still developing. For example, 98% of the country's exports are shipped by sea. The major seaports are Cape Town, Durban, and Port Elizabeth, which are the most technically equipped in Africa. Durban is the busiest port and the largest container distribution centre in Africa, with an annual throughput of 1.2 million containers.
In terms of air transport, the main international airports in South Africa are Johannesburg, Durban, and Cape Town International Airports. The South African government now faces the challenge of improving transport systems, including aviation infrastructure. The country is investing in projects that can modernise and improve the aviation industry for the country's economic growth. Besides the primary means of transport, South Africa has a strong taxi industry. The government is still taking all necessary measures to integrate the taxi industry into the mainstream of economic development. In addition, the taxi industry also contributes significantly to job creation by providing various direct and indirect workplaces.
Investment in transport systems comes not only from domestic capital, but also from external sources. Since the People's Republic of China is interested in South Africa, it is trying to invest in improving various areas and regions of the country. China has recently implemented larger projects in Africa than subways and express trams. In 2016, for example, a railway linking Kenya's mineral-rich interior provinces to the port of Mombasa was launched, and railways from Ethiopia, Tanzania, Uganda, Djibouti and Rwanda are being laid to Mombasa, providing a shortcut to transport minerals from Africa to China via the Indian Ocean.
Transport systems are comprehensive and formed by various methods, but all of them are important for contributing to the growth of a country's economy. Transport facilitates international contacts, mutually beneficial economic relations and humanitarian help in case of emergencies, it enables access to the cultural achievements of human civilisation and furthers the advancement of society. Russia, Brazil and South Africa promote the sustainable development of transport systems within their countries and implement government policies in this sector. Moreover, states are investing in transport infrastructure because the development of the transport system is strategically important in the economic reality of the country.