Resource-Based Transport Systems
Colonial (or resource-based) transportation systems were designed
to facilitate the extractive nature of the colonial economy (19th to
mid 20th century). They were particularly prevalent in Africa and Latin
America, but resources-rich countries such as Canada, Russia
and Australia also have parts of their
rail transport systems fashioned in
such a way. These systems were usually focused on a primary port city
which often served as the colonial administrative center. This port
functioned as the freight transshipment center for a converging land
transportation system. Railroads and roads (to a lesser extent) developed
as spokes from the port city, connecting it to the load centers of extractive regions
(mines, plantations, etc.). This
infrastructure prioritized connections form the port to regions of the colony
that were oriented toward an export economy, including agricultural goods, forest
products and minerals.
Colonial transport systems were not connected networks as they did not
aim at servicing the needs of the local economy, but to export commodities
to the international market. Because of their purpose and structure
they were insufficient to serve the national needs and were shaped
like trees branching out to specific inland locations. They did not integrate
the various parts of each colony in a market favoring regional
comparative advantages. Colonies were also not very well connected
to one another. Each maintained its individual
links to the outside world but overall regional integration would have
been virtually impossible to achieve from a transportation standpoint.
Even after the colonial era, this transportation system has
largely remained in place. Accumulated inertia in infrastructure
is very expensive and difficult to overcome as many former colonies
remained dependent on the existing extractive system for revenue generation.
Thus, the newly independent states inherited transport systems designed
to meet the needs of the former colonial powers rather than systems
that facilitate their development goals.