Chapter 1. Introduction and case studies on road and rail infrastructure in Asia: Creating quality infrastructure

There is a considerable need for additional infrastructure investment in many Asian economies, and future increases in population, economic growth and climate change will result in additional demand for infrastructure. As well as increasing investment in infrastructure, policy makers will need to work to ensure the quality of these investments. Quality infrastructure is designed and implemented taking into account a life-cycle perspective, employment creation, social and environmental impacts, alignment with broader development strategies, and resource mobilisation. Quality infrastructure generates positive externalities benefiting economic development and well-being. Examples of the incorporation of these principles in recent road and rail projects in seven Asian countries are discussed in this chapter through 16 case studies.



Road and rail infrastructure – along with other transport, energy, telecommunications and water and sanitation infrastructure – is essential for development. Investments to improve access strengthen connectivity, allow for the expansion of economic activity and can help to reduce rates of poverty. While additional investment in infrastructure is needed in much of Asia, enhancements to the quality of infrastructure projects are also needed to foster sustainable development in the region. This chapter outlines broadly the state of infrastructure in the region and the relevance of investing in quality infrastructure. Some of the possible ways in which the principles of quality infrastructure have been implemented in practice are illustrated with case studies on recent road and railway projects in Asian countries.

The infrastructure demand in Asia is very large. Asia and the Pacific will need USD 1.7 trillion annually from 2016 to 2030 to cope with climate change and maintain its strong rates of economic growth, according to ADB estimation (ADB, 2017[1]). Using a sample of 25 economies, it is estimated that the climate-adjusted need is about 1.34 trillion annually from 2016-2020. Nevertheless, only USD 881 billion has been invested in the region in 2015 amounting for about 66% of the needed amount.1 East Asia is by far the leader in infrastructure spending and Southeast Asia is lagging behind. Spending in East Asia accounted for 80% of the region’s total investment in 2011, followed by South Asia with 14% and Southeast Asia with 6%.2 While the spending in East Asia and South Asia was close to 6% and 5% of subregional GDP respectively, it only represented 2% of subregional GDP in Southeast Asia. At the country level, while considering Emerging Asian countries (the ten ASEAN Member States, China and India), the spending in China, Viet Nam and India reached over 5% of GDP in infrastructure, while that of Malaysia or Thailand was relatively low. In particular, climate-adjusted estimates between 2016 and 2030 show that 56.3% of investment needs are for power, 31.9% for transport, 8.7% for telecommunications and 3.1% for water and sanitation. While this might be aligned with Asia’s effort to increase connectivity, ADB further mentioned that maintenance and rehabilitation will gain more importance as the infrastructure stock increases. The ratio of new investment to maintenance and rehabilitation costs is estimated to be 3:2 with climate adjustment.

Improving Asia’s infrastructure means not only constructing new roads or energy plants but also ensuring their quality. The rankings of the World Economic Forum (WEF)3 demonstrate the need in Emerging Asia for both more and better infrastructure. For example, despite their growing economies, Viet Nam and the Philippines are ranked 79 and 95 respectively out of 138 countries in terms of infrastructure in 2016, though they did improve from 90 and 105 in 2011 out of 142 countries. Looking specifically at road quality, the same countries are also lowly-ranked, though Viet Nam has improved its road quality.

Similar conclusions emerge from the sub-index of the Logistics Performance Index (LPI) of the World Bank (2017[2]) in 2016 on the quality of trade- and transport-related infrastructure. On a scale of one (low) to five (high), infrastructure’s quality in Lao PDR scored 1.76, Cambodia 2.36, the Philippines 2.55 and Viet Nam 2.7, which is below the world average of 2.75. Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and India scored higher than the world average but lower than the average of the OECD member countries, which scored 3.69. Singapore (4.2) and China (3.75) both scored higher than the OECD member country average.

The quality of infrastructure varies considerably within Emerging Asia (Table 1.1). While Singapore and Malaysia have high rankings in terms of the quality of roads, for example, there is much room for improvement in Cambodia and the Philippines. The quality of railways also varies significantly across the region. When considering other infrastructure measures, countries also differ in terms of how much electricity is lost during transmission. Less output is lost in East Asia and Pacific4 as a whole than in the OECD member countries. The number of secure Internet servers relative to population is lower in Emerging Asia than the world average, and differences across the region are considerable. As it is the case in general, urban areas have better access than rural areas to electricity and to improved sources of water and sanitation facilities.

Table 1.1. Measures of key infrastructure in Emerging Asia in 2014





Water and sanitation

Roads paved 1

Road quality 2

Rail quality 2

Secure Internet servers 3

Power losses 4

Rural access to electricity 5

Urban access to electricity 6

Improved water source

Improved sanitation facilities

Rural 5

Urban 6

Rural 5

Urban 6

Brunei Darussalam












































































































Viet Nam




































East Asia & Pacific










South Asia










OECD members





















.. Not available

1. Percentage of total roads; data have different years depending on availability: 2004 for Cambodia, 2009 for Lao PDR, 1999 for the Philippines, 1999 for Thailand, 2007 for Viet Nam, and 2011 for the rest.

2. Ranking out of 138 countries; quality of infrastructure is based on Executive Opinion Survey.

3. Number per 1 million people.

4. Electric power transmission and distribution losses as a share of output.

5. Percentage of rural population with access.

6. Percentage of urban population with access.

Source: World Bank (2018[3]), WEF (2016[4]).

Quality infrastructure is needed in the region

There is a need for not only new infrastructure investment in Asian countries, but also improvements in its quality. Given the rapid development of technology in design and construction, the definition of quality infrastructure can also evolve over time. Nonetheless, quality infrastructure should include several key elements; it needs to achieve value for money over the full project life-cycle by supporting the procurement process; adopting life-cycle costs; using scenarios/options with rated criteria where non-price attributes are assessed with merit points and available to stakeholders; ensuring better management of infrastructure projects and service delivery; enhancing flexibility; improving planning and co-ordination, leading to economies of scale, proper mobilisation, channelling and management of PPPs. At the same time, quality infrastructure needs to be resilient against natural disasters through appropriate design and adequate systems for disaster preparation and response. Quality infrastructure also needs to achieve physical and operational safety and durability through improved construction standards, use of management information systems and smart design (World Bank and Government of Japan, 2016[5]; Mori, 2017[6]).

In addition, quality infrastructure minimises harmful environmental impacts; improves welfare of the society, with attention to the needs of traditionally excluded groups; takes account of gender and accessibility, particularly for the elderly and disabled; incorporates citizen engagement in planning; and uses a robust risk-assessment framework. Quality infrastructure will also be conducive to small and medium enterprise development; facilitates local job creation and productivity growth through efficient trade logistics; and supports enhanced competitiveness through technology transfer and human capital development.

These definitions of quality infrastructure are embodied in the Ise-Shima Principles (Box 1.1). Goals and initiatives related to the development of quality infrastructure were also included in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development adopted in September 2015, and in the Leaders’ Declarations adopted in recent G20 and APEC Summit meetings.

Box 1.1. The G7 Ise-Shima Principles for Promoting Quality Infrastructure Investment

On 26 and 27 May 2016, G7 leaders met in Ise-Shima, Japan, to address major global economic and political challenges. The G7 Ise-Shima Summit (ISS) was the first summit since the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, at the core of which are the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The leaders reaffirmed the crucial importance for stakeholders to work coherently to bridge the existing global demand-supply gap in infrastructure investment by promoting quality infrastructure investment to ensure strong, sustainable and balanced growth, to enhance resilience in our society and to contribute to global SDG efforts.

The summit’s communique on the G7 Ise-Shima Principles for Promoting Quality Infrastructure Investment outlined five principles for promoting quality infrastructure investment. These principles set out a coherent and organised framework for bridging the global infrastructure gap. Though the principles, set out below, are far from comprehensive, they do serve as a starting point for any conversation on quality infrastructure development, moving forward.

  • Principle 1: Ensuring effective governance, reliable operation and economic efficiency in view of life-cycle cost as well as safety and resilience against natural disaster, terrorism and cyber-attack risks. Quality infrastructure investment should ensure effective governance, economic efficiency, sustainability and reliable operation during the life span of a project as well as safety and resilience against natural disaster, terrorism and cyber-attack risks.

  • Principle 2: Ensuring job creation, capacity building and transfer of expertise and know-how for local communities. Quality infrastructure investment should seek to contribute to job creation for local work forces and to transfer of expertise and know-how to local communities.

  • Principle 3: Addressing social and environmental impacts. Quality infrastructure investment must consider the social and environmental impacts of infrastructure projects and duly address such impacts including by applying social and environmental safeguards that are in line with international best practices as reflected in the most relevant standards including those of existing MDBs (multilateral development banks).

  • Principle 4: Ensuring alignment with economic and development strategies including aspect of climate change and environment at the national and regional levels. Quality infrastructure investment should be aligned with economic and development strategies at the national and regional levels, through dialogues with stakeholders from the project preparation and prioritisation phases. Relevant elements of economic and development strategies to be considered include the development of a global supply chain through enhanced connectivity; use of latest technology such as information and communication technology; promotion of private investment and attraction of new industries; medium and long-term plans based on a long-term and cross-sector demand forecast and other relevant information; and debt sustainability and fiscal outlook. Climate change resilience, energy security and sustainability, conservation of biodiversity, disaster risk reduction should be considered including through further promotion of ecosystem-based approaches and green infrastructure.

  • Principle 5: Enhancing effective resource mobilisation including through PPP. Quality infrastructure investment should effectively mobilise resources including from the private sector through PPP (public-private partnership) and other forms of innovative financing, including through MDBs. To this end, joint efforts among stakeholders including host country governments to strengthen the enabling investment environment at national and subnational government levels, as well as to enhance due process and transparency, are essential.

The full externality effects of infrastructure should be considered in investment decisions

Emphasising quality in infrastructure projects can require changes in how infrastructure is perceived and, in particular, in how benefits of infrastructure are measured. A comprehensive perspective of infrastructure impact evaluation does not simply consider the financial feasibility of an individual project, but attempts to judge the full extent of the externalities – positive and negative economic, social and environmental effects over different time periods – of planned investments. A potentially useful framework outlined by Oosterhaven and Knaap (2003[7]) identifies the direct and indirect effects of transport infrastructure investment over temporary and permanent periods. During construction, infrastructure projects provide stimulus to the local and wider economy. Over the longer term, transportation infrastructure can lead to local efficiency gains, increased demand and induced economic activity, while also producing a combination of positive and negative health, environmental and other effects.

These positive externalities generated by transport and other forms of infrastructure are often strongest at the local level. Improved connectivity through quality infrastructure investments can boost economic activity, creating employment opportunities and expanding the tax base and improving well-being and inclusive growth while also addressing environmental impacts. Rural road improvements in Viet Nam have, through reduced travel costs and induced relocations, contributed to market development in poorer areas in particular, along with transitions away from agriculture-based employment and higher primary school completion rates at the commune level (Mu and Van de Walle, 2011[8]). Similarly, efficiency gains were seen by firms in cities affected by the highway upgrades made under India’s Golden Quadrilateral Program, which reported decreased obstacles to transportation, began keeping reduced input inventories and were more likely to switch suppliers (Datta, 2012[9]). Infrastructure investments may require complementary actions to create real opportunities for local communities, however (Box 1.2).

Box 1.2. Stimulating local development through infrastructure investment

Thilawa Special Economic Zone (SEZ) is considered one of the successful SEZ development cases in the region. The Myanmar government reserved 2 400 ha (hectare), 25 km southeast of Yangon for the development of Thilawa SEZ. The construction of Zone A, covering 405 ha and which is mainly industrial, started in January 2014 and ended in September 2016. Construction of Zone B, which includes industry, logistics, residential and commercial areas in its 700 ha, started in February 2017 and its first development phase is expected to be completed by mid-2018. As of April 2018, foreign investment in the SEZ totalled over USD 1.374 billion and more than 40 factories were operational according to the Thilawa SEZ Management Committee, the site’s governing body. Investments are being made in a number of sectors, including the manufacturing of garments, toys, radiators, steel products and aluminium cans; food processing; packaging; and logistics.

Approximately 8 000 people were employed during the construction phase of Zone A and the government estimated that 30 000 to 50 000 jobs will be created with the development of Zones A and B. Considering that, article 75 of SEZ law in Myanmar requires that at least 25% of skilled labour for the first two years of operation and 75% after four years of operation are to be hired locally, jobs created for the local community will not be limited to low-skilled works. Furthermore, vocational training will help to improve skills to meet demands. Improved skills and technological transfers should help to generate positive spillovers to local industries outside of the SEZ. Existing roads and power supplies were also upgraded, improving the investment climate and contributing to the well-being of the local community.

Exporting products to the international market requires meeting higher quality standards. To participate in the production process by providing raw materials or intermediate inputs to firms inside the SEZ, local industries will need to learn better practices and become more efficient producers. Important practices to adopt include the effective management of inventories for the smooth supply of goods. An initial performance evaluation conducted by International Growth Centre in partnership with Thilawa SEZ Management Committee estimated that the share of input sourced locally for products destined for the domestic market is less than 20% and is lower than 10% for products destined for the international market (Khandelwal et al., 2018[10]). This suggests that local industries need to increase quality and productivity to meet the expectations of foreign firms. Though linkages to the local economy are still weak in some industries, food processing is estimated to source 50% of its inputs from local suppliers. Continued efforts will be needed to increase domestic linkages in other sectors as well.

More widely, quality infrastructure investment has positive spillover effects that range from job creation and increased foreign direct investment (FDI) to improved tax revenues. Hulten (1996[11]) found that effective use of infrastructure resources explains more than 40% of the growth differential between economies with high and low growth rates. According to a study of spillover externalities by the Asian Development Bank Institute (2018[12]), the STAR highway in the Philippines had “a significant impact not only on business taxes, but also on property taxes and regulatory fees”. In a similar study on the Tashguzar–Boysun–Kumkurgon railway line in Uzbekistan, ADBI identified a 2% increase in the growth rate of regional GDP in affected regions, 5% value added in industry and 7% value added in services because of the project. In contrast, low-quality infrastructure imposes lasting costs, even when the up-front price is significantly lower. Poorly planned and constructed infrastructure may not function as intended and can lead to long-term public debt, accidents and environmental damage.

To develop quality infrastructure, a comprehensive perspective needs to be adopted at high levels of government, to achieve sufficient political support, and institutionalise practice within government, including at the local level (OECD, 2015[13]). While the ideal roles for and the division of responsibilities between local, regional and national authorities on any given project are shaped by a number of factors, including the respective capacities of the different levels of government and the need to consider projects’ wider spillovers and synergies, new forms of co-ordination may need to be developed over time. New approaches may also be needed to finance quality infrastructure. A variety of revenue and financing tools are available to governments that need to raise fund for infrastructure investment. These tools should be used to not only allow for the needed increase in infrastructure investment, but also to match financing to the needs for projects throughout their life-cycle. Finally, in ensuring that they remain at the forefront of investment decisions, quality infrastructure principles should be integrated into development planning – including at local and regional levels and through the alignment with budget priorities.

Case studies on delivering high-quality transport infrastructure

The 16 case studies in this chapter describe recent and ongoing infrastructure projects in Asian countries. They include road and rail projects in India, Indonesia, Lao PDR, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Viet Nam (Table 1.2). While these projects are not necessarily model examples of quality infrastructure, these case studies illustrate some of the ways in which the principles of quality infrastructure have been incorporated into recent infrastructure projects in the region.

Table 1.2. Infrastructure project case studies



Infrastructure type

Delhi mass rapid transport system

Delhi, India

Urban railway

National Highways Development Project (NHDP)



Gujarat state highway project

Gujarat, India


Railway double tracking on Java's south line

Java, Indonesia


Construction of a mass rapid transit system in Jakarta

DKI Jakarta Province, Indonesia

Urban railway

Champasack road improvement project

Champasack, Lao PDR


Project to improve the transport network in the northern part of the Greater Mekong Subregion

Louang Phrabang and Xaignabouri, Lao PDR


Enhancing the capacity of mass transit systems in Metro Manila

Manila, the Philippines

Urban railway

Southern transport development project

Southern Sri Lanka


Regional road-improvement project

Central and southern Thailand


Mass Rapid Transport Authority (MRTA) initial system (Blue line)

Bangkok, Thailand

Urban railway

Bangkok urban transport project

Bangkok, Thailand


Mass transit system in Bangkok (Purple Line)

Bangkok Metropolitan Area, Thailand

Urban railway

Construction of a tunnel at the Hai Van pass

Central Viet Nam

Highway tunnel

Third rural transport project

Viet Nam


Construction of the Nhat Tan bridge (Vietnam-Japan Friendship Bridge)

Hanoi, Viet Nam

Road bridge

Source: OECD Development Centre’s compilation.

Improving mass rapid transport system in Delhi

Project description

  • Site: Delhi, India.

  • Components: Construction of 351 km of lines, plus electrical, signalling and telecommunications systems; procurement of rolling stock; consulting services.

  • Total amount: approximately 1.5 trillion Japanese Yen (JPY) (loan: JPY 642.6 billion).

  • Project period: 1997-2006 (phase 1), 2006-11 (phase 2), 2012-17 (phase 3).

  • Agency in charge of project execution: Delhi Metro Railway Corporation.

  • Lender: Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).

Elements of quality infrastructure

  • Alignment with economic and development strategies

  • Effective governance, particularly through the establishment of the DMRC

  • Addressing social and environmental impacts

Along with economic growth, the population of Delhi has increased, rising from 6.2 million in 1981 to 16.8 million in 2011. In parallel with such growth, traffic on the city's transport networks increased, even as the number of buses did not increase sufficiently rapidly. Buses became overcrowded, and the number of automobiles and motorcycles rose on average by 11% a year as of 1997. Traffic congestion worsened and emissions of carbon dioxide rose. In Delhi, people tended to use trains for long-distance journeys and cargo transportation rather than for a short commute. The Delhi Mass Rapid Transport System project that forms the basis of this case study aimed to improve the urban environment and address both congestion and air pollution by building an urban railway in Delhi. By the end of phase three of the project, its organisers had planned to build 351 kilometres of railways. In the fourth phase of this project, they expect to add another 100 kilometres by 2021. This case study covers this project's first three phases.

In addition to addressing the pressing needs of Delhi's transport system, eliminating poverty was one of the Indian government's important goals in pursuing this project. Indeed, upgrading transport infrastructure has been a key part of the government's bid to deliver a response to poverty through industrialisation. India's ninth five-year plan, which ran from 1997-2002, and its eleventh five-year plan, which ran from 2007-12, put strong emphasis on improving the transport sector. The country's tenth plan, which ran from 2002-07, aimed to introduce a safe, efficient, and socially and environmentally friendly public transport system. Overall, the rapid mass transport project in Delhi was relevant to India's development needs, and it matched up well with the government’s strategies.

The project has a long life span, making effective governance all the more crucial for successfully implementing it. In 1995, the government set up Delhi Metro Rail Corporation Limited (DMRC) for this purpose. In recruiting its personnel, the DMRC has placed emphasis not just on technical qualifications but also on strong motivation and on an ability to help build, and to play a constructive role within, the organisation's unique culture. In India, public projects were rarely completed on time, but the DMRC has promoted a work culture of meeting deadlines and taking responsibility (Takaki and Hayashi, 2010[14]). Furthermore, the DMRC required workers to wear helmets and safety shoes before this was an established practice in India. The corporation adopted these practices to ensure an effective, efficient and safe implementation of the project. Doing so also improved the work culture in local communities by promoting safety in the workplace.

Railway projects tend to be on a large scale, which makes taking steps to mitigate their impact on the environment and society all the more important. As part of efforts to minimise the project's environmental impact, rolling stock uses regenerative brakes that save power by changing kinetic energy into electricity, and then saving it to be used when needed. These can yield energy savings of up to a third of the energy that the trains would otherwise need. Indeed, the transit system reduced carbon dioxide emissions by 35 295 tonnes in 2008, and by 43 751 tonnes in 2009, according to Delhi Metro's monitoring report for phase one. To mitigate the social impact, meanwhile, and to help boost welfare, DMRC monitored the living conditions of people who were relocated and who were employed for the project.

Upgrading India's national highways

Project description: Surat-Manor tollway

  • Site: State of Maharastra, India.

  • Components: Widening to four lanes over 180 km of the NH 8 road from Surat to Manor, plus capacity building for private participation and toll operations.

  • Total amount: USD 247 million, including a loan of USD 158 million.

  • Project period: 2000-05.

  • Agency in charge of project execution: National Highways Authority of India (NHAI).

  • Lender: Asian Development Bank (ADB).

Project description: Western transport corridor

  • Site: State of Karnataka, India.

  • Components: Widening to four lanes over 232 km of the NH 8 road from Tumkur to Haveri, plus corporate finance capacity building through piggyback technical assistance.

  • Total amount: USD 460 million, including a loan of USD 296 million.

  • Project period: 2002-12.

  • Agency in charge of execution: National Highways Authority of India (NHAI).

  • Lender: Asian Development Bank (ADB).

Elements of quality infrastructure

  • Alignment with economic and development strategies

  • Safety through design

  • Job creation in construction works and toll plazas

  • Addressing social and environmental impacts

  • Effective resource mobilisation and capacity building

Although national highways account for just 2% of India's road network, they carry about 40% of the country's total traffic. Given the vital importance of this network, degraded road conditions would hamper economic growth. In 1998, therefore, the Indian government developed the National Highways Development Project to upgrade its national highways to a higher standard. The project not only aimed to improve road conditions overall, but also to upgrade two-lane single carriageways into four-lane divided highways. Two-lane carriageways are usually more dangerous, and the speed is slow, leading to higher economic and social costs. India is rolling out the NHDP in seven phases, in a bid to strengthen 46 635 km of national highways. This includes the Golden Quadrilateral, accounting for 5 846 km of road; the north-south corridor for 4 000 km of road; and the east-west corridor for 3 300 km of road. The Surat-Manor tollway (SMT) and the Western transport corridor (WTC) come under phase one of the NHDP. They are in the busiest transport corridors in the Golden Quadrilateral.

Both the SMT and WTC projects have increased the safety and economic efficiency of the network. Widening the roads removed capacity constraints on the highways, helped traffic to flow without interruption, and cut both journey times and the cost of operating vehicles. To increase safety, the design included underpasses, overpasses, and additional service roads. In addition, both projects provided a boost in terms of job opportunities. Local participation in construction works and toll plazas was encouraged in order to create jobs. Moreover, the improved highways translated into better connectivity. This encourage tourism and business to develop along the corridor, resulting in further increases in jobs (ADB, 2014[15]; 2007[16]).

The projects also mitigated their environmental and social impact. Before cutting down a tree, ten others were planted. Also, the design of the projects included adequate drainage measures. For the SMT project in particular, a summary initial environmental examination (SIEE) was conducted to identify environmental impacts of the project. This raised issues including the destruction of forests and vegetation, disruptions to utility lines, and interference to existing traffic. Officials then set up an environmental mitigation and monitoring programme to address and monitor these issues. In a further initiative to keep the environmental impact to a minimum, the project did not allow labour camps to settle in the forest. In the case of the WTC project, meanwhile, the national highways authority's staff, consultants and contractors received training in environmental management from experts in the field. To address their social impacts, both projects included a resettlement action plan, as well as micro plans for compensation and assistance with the support of a non-governmental organisation.

As mentioned above, the two projects were both part of a bigger initiative rather than being isolated initiatives. Therefore, each project reinforced the other. The government had a mandate to increase the efficiency of the highway system, and the participation of the private sector in operations and maintenance was an essential part of this. To boost private participation, the SMT project included studies on the toll system and on creating comprehensive concessions in operations and maintenance. Subsequently, operations work was awarded under the WTC project to private entities by applying concepts from the SMT project. It would not have been possible for the WTC project to have undertaken such extensive research on its own, as this would have required a bigger budget. Thanks to the SMT project, however, concessions of operations and management and toll operation were awarded to private operators under the WTC project. In one instance it did so with a build-operate-transfer scheme. In two other cases, schemes based on contracts with the NHAI were used.

In order to develop a project effectively and sustainably, the agency that implements it has to have sufficient capacity. A component of the East-West Corridor project enhanced the NHAI’s capacity to deal with social issues. Additionally, NHAI received in conjuncture with the loan, technical assistance for capacity building in improving its financial management. Resources were effectively mobilised from different projects in order to improve the implementing agency's overall ability. This can serve as a good illustration of how to ensure the quality of an infrastructure investment. Being part of a bigger initiative encompassing a range of individual projects made this possible.

Improving Gujarat's state highways

Project description

  • Site: Gujarat State, India.

  • Components: Widening, strengthening, and periodic maintenance of state highways; institutional strengthening; consulting services.

  • Total amount: USD 408 million (loan: USD 280 million).

  • Project period: 2002-07.

  • Agency in charge of project execution: Roads and buildings department of the state government of Gujarat.

  • Lender: World Bank.

Elements of quality infrastructure

  • Institutional strengthening

  • Addressing social and environmental impacts

This project was approved when demand for road transport was expected to double in a decade, reflecting the 6-8% annual economic growth of Gujarat – a state in Northwest of India. This project won approval against a backdrop in which vehicle ownership in Gujarat had been increasing by 14% a year for 15 years. Gujarat already had some of the most developed roads in India, but traffic congestion was getting worse as investment and maintenance failed to keep up with rising demand. Secondary networks such as state highways and district roads lacked proper budget allocations. By contrast, government initiatives, such as the national highway development programme in 1998 and the rural roads programme in 2000, had helped to improve primary and tertiary networks. Gujarat's state highway project addressed such issues, and expanded the capacity of the state network.

One successful feature of the project concerns institutional strengthening within the executing agency. An institutional strengthening action plan was developed and implemented to improve the agency’s governance of road transport projects. This comprised organisational reforms such as streamlining staffing, preparing annual performance reports, establishing a comprehensive staff training programme, and setting up several new units. One of these was a policy and planning unit to prepare departmental budget plans using the computer-based system for road management that came out of the state highways project. In the past, insufficient data constrained budget planning. Establishing the new unit made the planning and management of road projects more effective (World Bank, 2008[17]).

A new unit for environmental management was established to ensure compliance with social and environmental safeguards. Environmental damage has been mitigated by adjusting route details, and by planting trees to compensate for those that make way for new development. Some other interesting measures have included the construction of underpasses to allow animals access to water sources, and a “food garden” of plants to minimise the movement of animals and the impact on wildlife. Earth excavated to de-silt or deepen ponds has created mounds that now serve as nesting areas for birds.

A resettlement action plan was prepared to mitigate the social impact of road development. It was also possible to lessen impacts on the society by making adjustments to the route and the width of the corridor. In addition, affected people got better housing and training, which improved their living conditions. The capacity-strengthening component of the project included the local community. It also made project planning and management more effective, and boosted compliance with environmental and social safeguards.

Doubling the tracks on Java's southern railway line

Project description

  • Site: Java Island, Indonesia.

  • Components: Construction of double track; rehabilitation of existing tracks and bridges; development of the signalling system; consulting services, including a detailed design for double tracking.

  • Total amount: JPY 16.4 billion (loan: JPY 15.1 billion).

  • Project period: 1996-2007.

  • Agencies in charge of project execution: Directorate-General of Land Transport (Directorate-General of Railways since August 2005); Ministry of Transport.

  • Lender: JICA.

Elements of quality infrastructure

  • Alignment with economic and development strategies

  • Effective governance, particularly in managing construction

The railway network in Java – an island where Indonesia’s capital Jakarta is located and which is between Sumatra and Bali – encompasses the North Line, the South Line, and the Bandung Line (Figure 1.1). As the economy grew, double tracking gradually expanded on some sections. However, the entire South Line remained limited to a single track. Railway traffic congestion in that area was rising, with trains travelling in both directions sharing a track. This led to safety issues and severe congestion between Kroya and Yogyakarta. Forecasters estimated that demand would outstrip the line’s capacity by 2004. In response to this situation, the track-doubling project in southern Java aimed to improve safety and to meet the rising demand for rail transport.

The project matches up with Indonesia's national strategies, which include several plans that emphasise the importance of track rehabilitation and the need to expand transport capacity. At the time of the project’s approval, Indonesia's sixth five-year development plan (1994-98) recommended the rehabilitation of tracks as a way to meet railway demand. At the time of the project’s completion, meanwhile, the country's medium-term national development plan (2010-14) continued to recognise the vital importance of increasing transport capacity by rehabilitating tracks and building new tracks, including double tracking.

The success of this project can be attributed to effective governance on the part of the implementing agency. The project included both the rehabilitation of existing lines and the construction of new ones. Such work is highly complicated as it is necessary to switch between working on existing tracks and the new ones without interfering with the normal operation of trains. Accumulated knowledge – in particular the experience acquired through the implementation of former projects – appear to have been strong assets while carrying out construction work. This project became a reference for effective governance, with the country planning many other investments in double-tracking and rehabilitation (Haraguchi, 2010[18]).

Figure 1.1. Project location of railway double tracking on Java south line

Source: Haraguchi, T. (2010[18]), “Ex-post evaluation of Japanese ODA loan project: Railway double tracking on Java south line”, report commissioned by the Japan International Cooperation Agency,

Building mass rapid transit infrastructure in Jakarta

Project description

  • Site: province of DKI Jakarta, Indonesia.

  • Components: Construction of a mass rapid transit system (15.7 km); electrical and mechanical systems; procurement of rolling stock; consulting services.

  • Total amount: JPY 137.4 billion (loan: JPY 123.4 billion).

  • Project period: 2009-19 (Phase I).

  • Agencies in charge of project execution: Provincial government of DKI Jakarta; railways Directorate-General in the Ministry of Transport.

  • Lender: JICA.

Elements of quality infrastructure

  • Alignment with economic and development strategies

  • Addressing environmental impacts

Congestion was severe in Jakarta's metropolitan area – an urban agglomeration that includes Jakarta, Bogor, Depok, Tangerang and Bekasi. Its population already stood at 21 million in 2000, and reached 28 million in 2010. The increase in population was especially rapid in Jakarta's suburbs, and the population commuting from these areas to the city centre increased from around 743 000 in 2002, to around 1 105 000 in 2010. It is estimated that 97% of these commuters were using roads. The volume of traffic grew steadily, with the number of registered vehicles increasing from 3.26 million in 2000, to about 8 million in 2006. In 2010, it reached about 10 million.

In order to address traffic congestion and air pollution, the Indonesian government developed plans for a mass rapid transit system – a combination of subways and elevated rails – that would enhance Jakarta's transport capacity and improve the investment climate across the metropolitan area. In Indonesia's mid-term national development plan, the government added weight to the need for a railway mass transportation system in the Jakarta metropolitan area. The transport ministry's 2011 national master plan for railways also backed the project as a way to cope with increasing demand. The project in question links Lebak Bulus to Bundaran Hotel Indonesia. Starting in 2019, there are plans to extend the line through to Kampung Bandan.

Air pollution and noise problems are the typical issues that arise during and after construction. To mitigate these environmental impacts, the project included noise barriers and vibration-isolation mats (JICA, 2008[19]).

Improving roads in Champasack, Lao PDR

Project description

  • Site: Champasack, Lao PDR.

  • Components: Rehabilitation and improvement of around 200 km of roads; periodic maintenance of 400 km of roads; consulting services.

  • Total amount: USD 52 million (loan: USD 40 million).

  • Project period: 1995-2001.

  • Agency in charge of project execution: Lao PDR's Ministry of Communication, Transport, Post and Construction.

  • Lender: ADB.

Elements of quality infrastructure

  • Alignment with economic and development strategies

  • Improved sustainability through periodic maintenance

  • Job creation in construction, maintenance works and tourism

In the mid-1990s, 85% of the road network in Lao PDR remained unpaved (ADB, 2005[20]), hampering economic growth. As part of its response to this situation, the country's government rolled out the Champasack project to provide all-weather access roads, stimulate rural economies and promote regional integration. The project consisted of rehabilitating and improving 200 kilometres of basic road infrastructure in the southern part of Lao PDR, stretching from Thailand to Cambodia.

The main road in this case study connects Chong Mek, which is on the Thai border, to Veun Kham on the Cambodian border. It is part of a national north-south road link developed by the government in partnership with the ADB. Moreover, the project road is also part of what officials have identified as high-priority road number six. It links the southern part of Lao PDR to Sihanoukville in Cambodia, thus falling within the scope of co-operation initiatives for the Greater Mekong Subregion. The project was consistent with the government's development priorities, which aim to increase connectivity and to support economic growth across the region.

Some initial difficulties emerged during the implementation of the project. For example, there was a long delay with the civil construction work due to a lack of sufficient equipment. Despite these initial difficulties, the project went well overall. A partial explanation for this may lie in its periodic maintenance component. At the time, maintenance funding in the region consistently fell short of requirements. Against this background, adding periodic maintenance boosted the sustainability of the project.

Furthermore, periodic maintenance was mostly decentralised to provincial institutions. In turn, these institutions recruited local villagers, including women, on an annual basis for the related works. Villagers also worked as labourers during the construction phase. As a result, the project created jobs, and improved levels of local participation. Moreover, allocating road maintenance work to local contractors tends to improve their capacity, as they gain experience thanks to the project.

It is also worth mentioning that better connections promoted tourism in the region by providing easier access for tourists. While agriculture remains the predominant occupation in the area, new businesses also flourished along the project road, thus diversifying jobs in the region. Lastly, because of better access, electricity distribution systems came to the area soon afterwards, bringing with them widespread improvements to well-being.

Improving transport network in the north of the Greater Mekong Subregion

Project description

  • Site: Seven districts of Louang Phrabang and Xaignabouri provinces, Lao PDR.

  • Components: Improvement of roads and rural access roads within route number four; construction of a bridge over the Mekong River; consulting services.

  • Total amount: USD 107 million (Loan: USD 100 million).

  • Project period: 2008-16.

  • Agency in charge of project execution: Lao PDR's Ministry of Public Works and Transport.

  • Lender: ADB; OPEC Fund for International Development; the governments of Australia and Korea.

Elements of quality infrastructure

  • Alignment with economic and development strategies

  • Improved economic efficiency through linking rural roads to highways

  • Improved sustainability by addressing overloading and establishing a maintenance fund

  • Effective resource mobilisation through borrowing from different lenders

Previously, the development of road networks in Lao PDR had been concentrated in the south of the country, while major gaps remained in the northern part of the country. These gaps deepened poverty by preventing the local community from accessing social services and markets. For example, the provincial capital of Xaignabouri had no paved access to the national road network. Considering that about 70% of freight and 90% of passengers were using roads, increasing road access was a key means of eradicating poverty. Indeed, Lao PDR's strategy for national growth and poverty eradication emphasised this very point, and the project contributed to this. Furthermore, Lao PDR has a central position between northern Thailand, northern Viet Nam, and the southern provinces of China. Improving the condition of roads in the area had the scope, therefore, to improve connectivity and to boost transactions across the region, aligning this part of Lao PDR with the Greater Mekong Subregion programme, which aimed to develop strategic corridors in the area.

As well as matching up with national and regional priorities, the project set out to efficiently reap the fruits of the infrastructural improvements it rolled out. The design went beyond simply improving road conditions because it linked rural roads to upgraded highway roads, allowing for improved market access as well as for the delivery of social services to deprived people (ADB, 2015[21]). Thanks to the project, people could now sell agricultural commodities in the city and go to school, having previously had only limited access to the city. In other words, the project not only reduced travel time and cost, as would be the case for any regular road upgrade, but it also managed to be more inclusive in that it rebalanced rural and urban development.

Furthermore, using design-build contracts for civil works also helped to increase the project's efficiency. In a design-build contract, a single contractor takes care of design and construction work. Otherwise, contractors only do the construction work, while consultants take charge of the design.

In order to get the best results from a project, it is also important to take good account of sustainability. Several aspects of the project contributed to this objective. By providing mobile scales, and constructing permanent weigh stations to detect overloaded vehicles, it was possible to increase the project's overall sustainability. The authorities in charge of the project established a dedicated road maintenance fund in 2002. Furthermore, hiring experts in safety helped to improve the safety component of the project. Overall, the implementing agency, which had accumulated experience on similar projects, demonstrated its ability to manage this project effectively.

Upgrading the capacity of mass transit systems in Metro Manila

Project description

  • Site: Manila, Philippines.

  • Components: Procurement of 120 rolling stocks; extension and construction of depots for line one of the city's light rail transit system (LRT); improvement of the railway system on line two; consulting services.

  • Total amount: JPY 60.8 billion (loan: JPY 43.3 billion).

  • Project period: 2012-22.

  • Agency in charge of project execution: Department of Transport and Communications.

  • Lender: JICA.

Elements of quality infrastructure

  • Alignment with economic and development strategies

  • Effective resource mobilisation involving different lenders for different project components

  • Addressing social and environmental impacts

Line one of Manila's light rail transit system (LRT 1) began full operations in 1985, connecting the northern and southern reaches of Metro Manila. In 2004, a second line, LRT 2, opened to connect the east and west of the agglomeration. Still, Manila’s population grew from 7.95 million in 1990 to 11.86 million in 2010, putting great strain on the existing system. At the same time, the number of registered vehicles increased by around 5% a year, exacerbating traffic congestion and air pollution in the area.

The Capacity Enhancement of Mass Transit Systems in Metro Manila project aimed to address these issues by enhancing the capacity of the light rail transit system's two lines. Moreover, the project matched up with the overall development strategies of the government of Philippines. Indeed, the country's development plan for 2011-16 specifically underscored the need to decongest traffic in Manila. Expanding the rail-based mass transit system was one solution, and the administration of President Aquino prioritised this project as one of ten public-private partnerships (PPPs) that it wanted to implement.

A number of parties made resources available in an effective manner in order to enhance the capacity of the existing lines. For LRT 1, the World Bank's International Finance Corporation (IFC) supported a feasibility study for extending the line to the south by 11.7 km. Meanwhile, the Philippine government funded development of the railway system. For civil works, excluding depots and operations and maintenance, the government tapped private sources of funding. In addition, Japanese official development assistance (ODA) funded the procurement of rolling stocks, as well as new constructions including the extension of existing depots. For LRT 2, the Philippines' national economic and development authority approved extension projects to the east and the west, while Japanese ODA funded further works on the railway system that included electricity, mechanics, signals and communication.

Furthermore, policy makers conceived of measures to mitigate the project's impact on the environment and on society. For example, they incorporated anti-pollution measures in order to mitigate the project’s impact on the environment. They chose to use effluent treatment facilities to treat discharge water once operations began. Furthermore, they deployed sound-proof walls, and the vibration proofing of sleepers, in order to prevent noise and vibration. As for the project's social impact, a resettlement action plan was prepared so that displaced people would be better off compared to their previous status (JICA, 2013[22]).

Developing the transport network in southern Sri Lanka

Project description

  • Site: Southern Sri Lanka.

  • Components: Construction of a four-lane southern expressway of around 126 km from Kottawa to Godagama; access roads; road safety; consulting services.

  • Total amount: USD 907 million (loan: USD 697 million).

  • Project period: 1999-2013.

  • Agency in charge of project execution: Sri Lanka's Ministry of Highways, Ports and Shipping.

  • Lender: ADB; Export-Import Bank of China; JICA; Nordic Development Fund; Swedish International Development Co-operation Agency.

Elements of quality infrastructure

  • Effective resource mobilisation

  • Improved safety, particularly through the establishment of institutions including a road safety fund and technical assistance

  • Addressing social impacts

As the largest greenfield road project ever implemented in Sri Lanka, this initiative aimed to promote balanced growth and safety. While the metropolitan region of Colombo was generating almost half of Sri Lanka’s gross domestic product (GDP), and the western province was economically more advanced compared to the south, the southern province’s regional GDP fell below the country’s average. The poor quality of infrastructure in this province was one of the factors contributing to this disparity. It was necessary to provide deprived populations with better access, and to improve Sri Lanka’s road safety record to help ensure steady growth in the country.

The project achieved its objectives, yet this success would not have been possible without the effective mobilisation of resources from different parties. It took seven years to formulate the project, including conceiving of the master plan, the feasibility study, and the engineering works. The ADB provided additional technical assistance, while JICA assisted with engineering works. Finally, ADB, JICA and EXIM bank of China provided funding for civil works. The collaboration of all of these parties combined to make all of this possible.

One characteristic feature of the project came from its road safety component. To enhance road safety, traffic safety institutions were established, and technical assistance was given. This assistance related to the establishment of emergency rescue services and to revision of traffic laws and regulations. The project also extended to implementing civil works to reduce black spots, providing road safety equipment such as computers and software for an accident data system, and furnishing the traffic police with key equipment. Furthermore, a revision of the traffic laws and regulations paved the way for the establishment of a road safety fund. This fund's goal was to support road safety programmes, and to provide financial assistance to the victims of accidents. In this connection, the fund received 1% of the insurance premium for third-party motoring risks (ADB, 2015[23]).

Another interesting feature of this project relates to the measures it took to mitigate its social impact. As part of these efforts, it included a grievance redressing mechanism through a land acquisition and resettlement committee. This was the first such scheme in the country, and authorities subsequently applied it to other sectors. Meanwhile, an income restoration programme was set up to re-establish home gardens, and to provide skills training to people affected by the project. Furthermore, a project communication plan was established in 2005, while public awareness campaigns sought to manage public relations.

Improving regional roads in Thailand

Project description

  • Site: Central and southern Thailand.

  • Components: widening and improvement of major national highways; consulting services.

  • Total amount: JPY 66.8 billion (loan: JPY 40.3 billion).

  • Project period: 1994-2001 (Phase I), 2000-05 (Phase II).

  • Agencies in charge of project execution: Thailand's Highways Department and Transport Ministry.

  • Lender: JICA.

Elements of quality infrastructure

  • Alignment with economic and development strategies

  • Improved safety, particularly through roads design

  • Improved sustainability by addressing overloading

Roads play a critical role in Thailand’s transport system. Amid such massive use, the overall road conditions for main highways were improved, with a pavement rate of 78% in 1993 and 97.9% in 1999 (Fujino, 2004[24]; Miyazaki, 2009[25]). However, traffic volume on two-lane roads kept increasing year by year, amounting to an average traffic volume of over 8 000 vehicles per day. This was threatening the quality of the roads, and was exceeding their capacity to accommodate current and future transport demands. There was a need to expand the transport capacity of existing roads.

Thailand's national development plans emphasised this need. For example, the country's seventh national economic and social development plan (1992-96) underlined the need to increase road capacity by developing the transport sector and improving its efficiency. This was the plan that led to the implementation of phase one of the project in this case study. Later, the country's eighth plan (1997-2001) announced the establishment of a rapid transport system between major cities. Phase two of the project in question was part of this. Indeed, both phases shared the objective of increasing the capacity of the road network by widening and rehabilitating existing roads.

Moreover, the project was also relevant to regional development strategies. It fits, for example, with the ADB's economic co-operation programme for the Greater Mekong Subregion. This initiative is intended to develop spillover effects in the region, with the aim of boosting welfare and economic growth. Thailand hosts six out of the nine economic corridors linking Thailand to Myanmar, China, Lao PDR and Viet Nam. The target sections of the project in question link up with such initiatives. Moreover, better access to roads will reduce income disparities between metropolitan areas and the provinces, as well as promoting economic exchanges with neighbouring countries.

One interesting feature of the project lies in its safety component. This included installing more traffic lights, street lights, and reflective plates, in order to prevent traffic accidents. There were also changes to road design. For example, there was a reduction in U-turn points. Local governments and police promoted traffic safety campaigns. Furthermore, Thai authorities added weighing stations across the national highway network to check for overloaded vehicles. These measures boosted sustainability and thus extended the life of the roads.

Developing the first line of a mass rapid transit system for Bangkok

Project description
  • Site: Bangkok, Thailand.

  • Components: construction of 20 km of subway; 18 stations; subway-related infrastructure including a train depot; consulting services.

  • Total amount: JPY 358.9 billion (loan: JPY 186.7 billion).

  • Project period: 1996-2004.

  • Agency in charge of project execution: Mass Rapid Transit Authority of Thailand (MRTA).

  • Lender: JICA.

Elements of quality infrastructure

  • Alignment with economic and development strategies

  • Addressing environmental impacts

  • Effective resource mobilisation through PPP

  • Capacity building through training programmes

Rapid economic growth starting in the 1990s accelerated traffic congestion and air pollution in Bangkok, hindering long-term economic growth. In response, and in line with Thailand's seventh national economic and social development plan (1992-96), the government drew up a plan in 1995 to develop a mass transit network that would eventually feature five lines: green, red, blue, orange and purple. The blue line, which is the subject of this case study, was Thailand's first subway construction project. Initially, the plan was to build it as an elevated line, but planners then made changes to how it would pass through central Bangkok. The project aimed to mitigate traffic congestion, to improve the urban environment, and to contribute to the steady economic growth of the country.

The project placed a strong emphasis on mitigating its impact on the environment. As noted above, railway projects tend to have a very considerable impact because they include big construction works that require digging up the earth or cutting down trees before laying tracks. In order to keep the environmental impact to a minimum, the MRTA made this a major criterion for evaluating bidders. Furthermore, the MRTA also required contractors to haul the earth they removed to a designated location. Planners also prepared detailed countermeasures for air, water and noise pollution. As a result, air pollution on major roads decreased. For example, carbon monoxide in Sukhumvit decreased from 7 parts per million in 2003 to 3.4 parts per million in 2005. The project also managed to be more inclusive. Indeed, it went beyond existing legal provisions by introducing guidelines for making the infrastructure more accessible for disabled or elderly people (Otsu, 2008[26]).

During the project's implementation phase, it was the MRTA itself that carried out the civil works. However, a private concessionaire then took over operations and maintenance for a period of 25 years (Figure 1.2). If it had been necessary to include operations and maintenance in the project's overall budget, instead of doing it separately, the loan would have been insufficient, and the scope of works too large. Therefore, engaging the private sector as a partner in the form of a PPP made it possible to deliver a mass rapid transit that benefited the local community. Furthermore, the concessionaire included international players in the transport sector.5 As a result of this, the local community was able to learn new skills by taking part in training, and by learning from practices on the ground.

Figure 1.2. System chart for construction and O/M of MRTA initial system project in Thailand


1. O/M refers to Operation and Maintenance.

2. BECL stands for Bangkok Expressway Public Company Limited.

3. M&E stands for Mechanic and Electricity.

Source: Otsu, H. (2008[26]), “Thailand: MRTA initial system project”, report commissioned by the Japan International Cooperation Agency,

Relieving traffic congestion in Bangkok

Project description
  • Site: Bangkok, Thailand.

  • Components: Thonburi road extension (5.1 km of dual three-lane highway); institutional support for the office of the land-traffic management commission (OCMLT); regional structural plan for Bangkok; training.

  • Total amount: USD 149 million (loan: USD 30 million).

  • Project period: 1992-2002.

  • Agencies in charge of project execution: Public works department (now part of the rural roads department); OCMLT; National Economic and Social Development Board (NESDB).

  • Lender: ADB.

Elements of quality infrastructure

  • Alignment with economic and development strategies

  • Transfer of expertise and know-how, particularly in the development of an analysis model and establishment of a body dealing with conflicts

  • Capacity building through training programmes

  • Effective resource mobilisation, particularly for planning studies and technical assistance

The NESDB's seventh five-year plan (1992-96) stated the necessity of improving the efficiency of Bangkok's transport system in order to support economic growth. One of the objectives in this plan was to relieve infrastructure bottlenecks in the metropolitan area of Bangkok. The project in question, which was relevant to this five-year plan, aimed to increase the efficiency of the road network in general, and, in particular, to relieve daily traffic congestion in Bangkok by extending Thonburi road, which leads to the central business district.

Thailand had set up the OCMLT in 1992 as a supervisory institution. A number of important tools were developed, notably a model for analysing transport and traffic, in order to make transport assessment and planning more effective. Its latest incarnation is the Bangkok Extended City Model (BECM). Still, the conflicting objectives of some eleven agencies dealing with urban transport plans weighed on the efficiency of the policies they came up with. However, a body called Megaprojects Technical Support (MTS) focused on points of conflict within megaprojects, helping to resolve them within a framework that integrates railway and expressway networks. Furthermore, training programs were organised for the staff of executing agencies and other related transport institutions (ADB, 2005[27]).

The OCMLT used its own budget to continue training programmes and the development of urban transport models and databases. It also provided trainings and skill development for practitioners with links to transport planning. As a result, the office was able to contribute to an overall increase of know-how in the transport sector. Moreover, a number of additional resources were mobilised too. For instance, the Canadian International Development Agency supported the NESDB in preparing a strategic planning study. The study proposed that the Bangkok region should develop multiple centres, and should link them up with fast transport systems. In addition, two technical assistance grants complemented the project. One of these aimed to establish an environmental unit inside the public works department. Another such grant helped to prepare a further extension of the project, including an adequate network of distributor roads. This convergence from different sources in support of this project is an example of an effective mobilisation of resources towards achieving a common goal.

Building a new line for Bangkok's mass transit system

Project description

  • Site: Metropolitan area of Bangkok, Thailand.

  • Components: civil works; procurement of mechanical and electrical facilities; procurement of rolling stock; consulting services.

  • Total amount: JPY 455.4 billion (loan: JPY 79.1 billion).

  • Project period: 2009-16.

  • Agency in charge of project execution: Mass Rapid Transit Authority of Thailand (MRTA).

  • Lender: JICA.

Elements of quality infrastructure

  • Alignment with economic and development strategies

  • Improved sustainability, particularly through the maintenance contract

  • Transfer of expertise and know-how, particularly for maintenance work

  • Addressing environmental impacts

As of the 1990s, rapid economic growth accelerated traffic congestion and air pollution in Thailand's capital. In order to improve this urban environment, in 2004 the MRTA completed an initial line – the blue line – passing through central Bangkok. Thereafter, the population of Bangkok and its metropolitan area continued to grow, rising to around 9.79 million in 2005, and to 10.07 million in 2008. In addition to this increase in population, the number of vehicles on the roads was rising following the economy's recovery from the Asian financial crisis. This aggravated traffic congestion and air pollution in the area (JICA, 2008[28]).

The project in this case study was part of the government’s mass transit investment plan for 2005-12, which aimed to expand to seven the number of lines in the Bangkok metropolitan area. Moreover, the project also matched up well with Thailand's national economic and social development plans – notably from the seventh (1992-96) to the tenth plans (2007-11). These plans stressed the importance of an urban transportation network in the area. This great emphasis in the plans demonstrated that the project in question – to add a line to Bangkok's rapid mass transit system – was a priority for the government in its bid to find solutions to the issues outlined above. Furthermore, compared to other lines, the new, purple, line also extended the system's reach into outer Bangkok. In these outer reaches of the urban area, buses are the main means of transport. Given the large quantities of emissions that buses create, this extension helped to further alleviate air pollution.

A distinguishing figure of this project stems from the ten-year contract with companies for the maintenance of the railway system. This means that the Thai authorities expect appropriate maintenance and management. Moreover, this arrangement included the dispatch of technical experts to work on the project and, in turn, to transmit maintenance skills to local employees. As a result of all of this, this project looks set to be sustainable and beneficial to the society.

Nonetheless, and as noted above with regard to other projects of this kind, railways or subways are big construction works that affect their surroundings, and it is important to mitigate this impact. Anti-pollution measures included erecting noise-blocking walls and tree planting.

Getting rid of a bottleneck by building a tunnel at the Hai Van pass

Project description
  • Site: between central Hue and Da Nang City in central Viet Nam.

  • Components: construction of tunnels and related facilities; approach roads; resettlement areas; consulting services.

  • Total Amount: JPY 17.5 billion (loan: JPY 15.3 billion).

  • Project period: 1997-2005

  • Agency in charge of project execution: Ministry of Transport.

  • Lender: JICA.

Elements of quality infrastructure

  • Alignment with economic and development strategies

  • Capacity building and transfer of expertise and know-how, particularly on training regarding tunnel operation

  • Consideration of maintenance and emergency measures

  • Safety measures regarding means of transport

  • Improved sustainability due to the operation and maintenance plan

The Hai Van Pass segment of Viet Nam's national highway number one is a narrow and steep mountain road that becomes even more dangerous during rainy seasons. Located in central Viet Nam, it was a bottleneck that impeded vehicles from passing smoothly from north to south. Furthermore, the road is part of an east-west economic corridor that runs through Viet Nam, Lao PDR, Thailand, and Myanmar. Therefore, this particular bottleneck hampered traffic not just inside Viet Nam but between all of these countries. Indeed, the segment in question was seen as impeding the development not just of central Viet Nam, but that of the whole country.

Viet Nam's national socio-economic development plan, as well as those of the province of Thua Thien Hue and the city of Da Nang, and also the country's national transport master plans, all prioritised the development of the country's central region. The construction of the Hai Van Pass tunnel was crucial to do so.

The most characteristic feature of the project was the way it succeeded in transmitting know-how. The technical team in Viet Nam benefited from capacity building on topics including environmental considerations and technology. During implementation, staff members received significant training regarding tunnel operation, maintenance, and emergency measures. Furthermore, the executing agency further disseminated the knowledge it acquired, transmitting know-how extensively to the local community. For example, it invited university researchers and lecturers to attend training sessions (Vietnam-Japan Joint Evaluation Team, 2009[29]).

This knowledge was put into an operations and maintenance manual, and was revised in line with the executing agency’s experience. Another practical tweak was found to organise the passage of trucks and buses in order that motorcycles could also safely take advantage of the tunnel. In this way, it was possible to include all means of transport, and to increase the overall safety of the tunnel. The maintenance manual and the practical tweak increased the sustainability of the project.

Thanks to the well-prepared operations and maintenance plan, it was also possible to increase the project's overall sustainability. Although building the tunnel relied upon new and advanced technology, the operations and maintenance plan was prepared in advance. This covered the construction phase and the preparation of various on-site, local and overseas training programmes. The communication between the executing agency and the operations and maintenance contractor during the construction period also contributed to the smooth management of the tunnel. It is also worthy of note that a tunnel at the Ngang pass in the province of Ha Tinh also was constructed using knowledge and technology learned during the implementation of this project.

Improving Viet Nam's rural roads

Project description

  • Site: 33 provinces in northern and central Viet Nam.

  • Components: rehabilitation of the core network of rural roads; maintenance of the network of district roads; institutional and capacity building.

  • Total amount: USD 308 million (loan: USD 250 million).

  • Project period: 2006-14.

  • Agency in charge of project execution: Ministry of Transport.

  • Lenders: World Bank; the UK government's Department for International Development (DFID).

Elements of quality infrastructure

  • Alignment with economic and development strategies

  • Improved sustainability, particularly through maintenance

  • Job creation for ethnic minorities

  • Effective resource mobilisation, particularly in funding maintenance

  • Capacity building, particularly through training programmes and technical assistance

Since 2000, Viet Nam has invested significantly in basic access to roads, particularly in rural areas, in order to promote equitable growth throughout the country. The idea was that better access to markets and social services would alleviate poverty and foster economic growth. However, without proper maintenance, roads will not make significant contributions to further development. This is especially relevant to Viet Nam because rural roads serve 75% of the national population and 90% of rural people living in poverty. Thus, it is crucial not only to increase the accessibility of the roads, but also to keep them in good condition. This project aimed to increase rural communities' access to markets, social services and non-farm economic opportunities, while also improving the condition of rural roads. Therefore, the project is in line with the development priorities of Viet Nam.

This can be shown through government plans. The key objective of the socio-economic development plans for 2006-10 and 2011-15, as well as of the transport ministry's five-year plan, was to provide universal rural access. These plans also placed strong emphasis on the continuous reform of the transport sector, with the aim of modernising road maintenance and, in turn, giving further legitimacy to the transport project in this case study.

Indeed, the project is a continuation of two previous rural transport projects. Still, it is unique in its own way as it contributes to the local community through a pilot initiative called “Ethnic Minority Women’s Rural Road Maintenance”. Funding from the World Bank's gender action plan, coupled with DFID assistance from the United Kingdom, supported the initiative, which took place in the provinces of Lao Cai, Thanh Hoa and Quang Binh.

Under the guidance of the Viet Nam Women’s Union, many women from ethnic minorities took on maintenance jobs on rural roads. As well as helping to improve the condition of roads in rural areas, this also increased the awareness of the need for road maintenance (World Bank, 2014[30]). These jobs improved local livelihoods by providing off-season jobs, and they also enhanced local skills in road maintenance thanks to the training programmes. This effective mobilisation of resources not only created jobs, but also made it possible to perform the maintenance works in a cost-effective manner. It may well not have been possible to achieve these results for such a low cost by relying upon private contractors alone.

Furthermore, a study of rural road-surfacing trials paved the way for a more adaptive approach to managing and maintaining roads. Concerning pavement types, for example, gravel surfaces were changed to sealed surfaces, because flooding patterns were too damaging in the area. Indeed, careful consideration of the local climate conditions, in addition to using local materials, helped to increase the project's overall sustainability. Furthermore, technical assistance was given for the establishment of a vital road maintenance fund.

Constructing the Nhat Tan bridge (Viet Nam-Japan friendship bridge)

Project description

  • Site: Dong Anh and Tay Ho districts, Hanoi City, Viet Nam.

  • Components: construction of bridge (3.1 km); approach roads (6.1 km); consulting services.

  • Total amount: JPY 207.9 billion (loan: JPY 54.2 billion).

  • Project period: 2006-15.

  • Agency in charge of project execution: Ministry of Transport.

  • Lender: JICA.

Elements of quality infrastructure

  • Alignment with economic and development strategies

  • Improved economic efficiency, particularly through design

  • Addressing environmental impacts

  • Job creation through domestic manufacturing

  • Capacity building through construction works

As is the case all around the world, roads play an important role in Viet Nam’s transport system. In 2008, 70% of cargo and 90% of passengers in the country were transported by roads. However, despite such extensive use, and despite Viet Nam’s strong economic growth, budget constraints continued to limit the proper development of the country's road network. These same considerations apply to the city of Hanoi, which enjoyed a burgeoning period of economic development from 2008 to 2010. In Hanoi, with an average GDP growth rate of 9.2% a year (2008-10), the number of registered vehicles was increasing drastically. However, the city's roads could not accommodate the transport needs that the city's growth path called for. This led to traffic congestion, and deteriorated the urban environment. The existence of a limited number of bridges across the Red River was also a factor. Freight vehicles had to pass through the centre of Hanoi to pass on to either side of the river, thereby increasing urban congestion (JICA, 2006[31]).

Building the Nhat Tan bridge and its approach roads was about tackling these issues. Moreover, its design reflected the government’s long-term development strategies for the transport sector. Indeed, the 2006-10 five-year socio-economic development plan prioritised the repair and new construction of roads. Viet Nam's development strategy for transport and traffic through to 2030 also emphasised the importance of arterial roads. Furthermore, Hanoi's integrated development and environment programme also saw the bridge as a priority.

The bridge’s design was also cost-efficient. In this connection, its foundations featured a steel pipe sheet pile wall structure, a soft-ground construction method to reduce the environmental burden, and, overall, a number of savings on the cost of construction. Finally, the project not only improved conditions in the urban area of Hanoi, but also contributed to enhancing the skills of local people, with skilled Japanese engineers transferring knowledge to engineers in Viet Nam. Moreover, Vietnamese workers manufactured a range of parts and materials for the bridge. In addition to adding to the viability of the country's economy, a high-quality piece of new infrastructure should indeed create jobs and build capacity in local communities in order to have a real and lasting impact.

Policy discussions on quality infrastructure investment in this publication

Governments in Asian countries recognise the need to invest more in quality infrastructure. However, the development of such projects will require considerable reforms to the policy environment in most of the region. In light of this need, the following chapters address three important aspects of infrastructure investment related to Ise-Shima Principles: the role of local governments (Chapter 2), financing (Chapter 3), and the alignment between infrastructure planning and development strategies (Chapter 4). These chapters also include recommendations for addressing common challenges in these areas. Naturally, policy challenges will vary between countries and regions. Indeed, it is always of paramount importance to take account of local priorities, and to find adaptable solutions that are appropriate to the local context.

  • Across Asia, local governments play a major role in investing in infrastructure. They do so either as the direct or indirect implementers of projects, or in partnership with central governments and the private sector. On the one hand, local delivery can bring gains in terms of productivity and allocative efficiency. On the other hand, however, local governments may struggle to muster the capacity necessary for managing a project successfully. Reforms at the local level can help to overcome such limitations.

  • Although governments are the main source of infrastructure financing in Asian countries, public-private partnerships (PPPs), and other forms of private-sector participation, are likely to play increasingly important roles in the future. Moreover, the involvement of private partners often translates into a more complete appraisal of costs over the whole life of a project. Furthermore, matching up projects with the appropriate sources of financing, building up infrastructure funds, and fostering the development of financial markets, all help to improve the overall financial sustainability of the infrastructure sector.

  • Making sure that investment in infrastructure is fiscally sustainable, and that it promotes growth and development, requires proper management. Indeed, an efficient delivery of infrastructure projects requires strong systems for the management of public investment. In order to illustrate such considerations, a case study of Viet Nam discusses the alignment of infrastructure planning and development plans more generally.


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[21] ADB (2015), Lao People's Democratic Republic: Northern Greater Mekong Subregion transport network improvement project, Asian Development Bank, Manila,

[23] ADB (2015), Sri Lanka: Southern transport development project, Asian Development Bank, Manila,

[15] ADB (2014), India: Western transport corridor project, Asian Development Bank, Manila,

[16] ADB (2007), India: Surat-Manor tollway project, Asian Development Bank, Manila,

[20] ADB (2005), Lao People's Democratic Republic: Champasack road improvement project, Asian Development Bank, Manila,

[27] ADB (2005), Thailand: Bangkok urban transport project, Asian Development Bank, Manila,

[12] ADBI (2018), Financing Infrastructure in Asia and the Pacific: Capturing Impacts and New Sources, Asian Development Bank Institute, Tokyo,

[9] Datta, S. (2012), “The impact of improved highways on Indian firms”, Journal of Development Economics, Vol. 99/1, pp. 46-57,

[24] Fujino, A. (2004), Thailand: Regional road improvement project, Japan International Cooperation Agency, Tokyo,

[18] Haraguchi, T. (2010), Ex-post evaluation of Japanese ODA loan project: Railway double tracking on Java south line, Japan International Cooperation Agency, Tokyo,

[11] Hulten, C. (1996), “Infrastructure capital and economic growth: How well you use it may be more important than how much you have”, NBER Working Paper Series, No. 5847, National Bureau of Economic Research,

[22] JICA (2013), Ex-ante evaluation for capacity enhancement of mass transit systems in Metro Manila project, Japan International Cooperation Agency, Tokyo,

[19] JICA (2008), Ex-ante evaluation for construction of Jakarta mass rapid transit project, Japan International Cooperation Agency, Tokyo,

[28] JICA (2008), Ex-ante evaluation for mass transit system project in Bangkok, Japan International Cooperation Agency, Tokyo,

[31] JICA (2006), Ex-ante evaluation for Nhat Tan bridge construction project, Japan International Cooperation Agency, Tokyo,

[10] Khandelwal, A. et al. (2018), Learning from Thilawa special economic zone, International Growth Centre, London,

[25] Miyazaki, K. (2009), Ex-post evaluation of Japanese ODA loan project: Regional road improvement project in Thailand, Japan International Cooperation Agency, Tokyo,

[6] Mori, T. (2017), Quality infrastructure investment,

[8] Mu, R. and D. Van de Walle (2011), “Rural roads and local market development in Vietnam”, The Journal of Development Studies , Vol. 47/5, pp. 709-734,

[32] NHAI (2017), National Highways Development Project: Golden Quadrilateral, National Highways Authority of India,

[13] OECD (2015), “Fostering investment in infrastructure: Lessons learned from OECD Investment Policy Reviews”, OECD Publishing, Paris,

[7] Oosterhaven, J. and T. Knaap (2003), “Spatial economic impacts of transport infrastructure investments”, in Transport Projects, Programmes and Policies: Evaluation Needs and Capabilities, Ashgate,

[26] Otsu, H. (2008), Thailand: MRTA initial system project, Japan International Cooperation Agency, Tokyo,

[14] Takaki, K. and Y. Hayashi (2010), Ex-post evaluation of Japanese ODA loan project: Delhi mass rapid transport system, Japan International Cooperation Agency, Tokyo,

[29] Vietnam-Japan Joint Evaluation Team (2009), Ex-post evaluation of Japanese ODA loan project: Hai Van Pass tunnel construction project, Japan International Cooperation Agency, Tokyo,

[4] WEF (2016), The Global Competitiveness Report 2016-2017, World Economic Forum, Geneva,

[3] World Bank (2018), World Development Indicators (database),

[2] World Bank (2017), Logistic Performance Index (database),

[30] World Bank (2014), Implementation completion and results report for the third rural transport project in Viet Nam, World Bank, Washington D.C.,

[17] World Bank (2008), Implementation completion and results report for the Gujarat state highway project in India, World Bank, Washington D.C.,

[5] World Bank and Government of Japan (2016), Closing summation,


← 1. Calculating infrastructure spending is not easy as expenditures are not tagged according to their objectives. Asian Development Bank (ADB) used budget spending data on infrastructure and PPI data for information on private investment to construct expenditures on infrastructure. 45 Developing Member Countries (DMC) of ADB were taken for assessing the overall need in infrastructure investment, while 25 DMCs with adequate data representing 96% of the region’s population, were selected for measuring the spending on infrastructure. Infrastructure includes transport (road, rail, air and ports), energy, water and telecommunication. Countries include Afghanistan, Armenia, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Kiribati, Kyrgyz Republic, Malaysia, Maldives, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Viet Nam.

← 2. Regional breakdown was made available for 2011 on 22 DMCs. East Asia includes China, Korea, Hong Kong, China and Mongolia. South Asia includes Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Southeast Asia includes Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Viet Nam.

← 3. Surveyed CEOs estimate the quality of roads, rails, etc. in their country.

← 4. The World Bank’s aggregate of East Asia & the Pacific includes ASEAN countries and China, while South Asia aggregate includes India.

← 5. Despite being highly evaluated, there were some issues related to the financial status of the concessionaire, BCML. Although BMCL’s total income is increasing, it is doing so by less than initially expected, due to lower demand and fares. Moreover, other lines were still under construction, resulting in fewer synergies. Thus, BMCL is in deficit. In 2015 it merged with BECL (expressway care) to become BEM (Bangkok Expressway and Metro Public Company Limited), and its work is ongoing.

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