The government has begun turning its attention to the next phase of its programme to strengthen the country’s transport infrastructure – the improvement of urban and provincial road networks nationwide to ease congestion and improve end-user distribution services. Benefitting from an AD60bn (€610m) outlay in the current 2010-14 national investment plan, Algeria has outlined an ambitious infrastructure plan that aims to create an extensive network of national highways and provincial roads by 2025.

Priorities for the 2005-25 Strategic Plan for Road and Highway Development are two main axes: the EastWest Highway in the north and the Hauts Plateaux Ring Road, which follows a similar east-west path farther in the country’s south.

NEW CONNECTIONS: The road, with two lanes in each direction and the possibility of expanding to three, will not only provide a second major east-west connection, but will also speed up access to bypass (north-south) roads, thereby improving more isolated provinces’ access to coastal areas. Indeed, while the East-West Highway offers a much-needed thoroughfare across the country, it is the public roadworks set for 2012 that offer some of the greatest potential to dramatically boost domestic connectivity. A series of 10 north-south connector roads will provide access to these main arteries from underserved areas in the interior, through a series of interchanges and access roads.

Feasibility studies are already under way on some of the links, such as the planned connector to the port city of Ténès (Chlef) and the provincial capital of Tissemsilt, 220 km to the south-east.

The proposal is for a two-lane express road, with access to the East-West Highway in Ténès and to the future Hauts-Plateaux Ring Road in Tissemsilt. The MPW classed this as a “highly strategic” project, due to its potential to help open up Chlef Province and capitalise on the commercial potential of the port of Ténès. Similar projects are being evaluated in several provinces to link the northern regions with the Hauts Plateaux.

Maintenance is also a major focus and the MPW also outlined a programme to repair some 1000 km of the national road network in 2012, representing a total investment of AD12bn (€121.7m). Nasser Mekhilef, the director of road repair and usage at the MPW, said the programme will provide better signage, install crash barriers, aim to eliminate dangerous points where the highest accident rates are observed and repair roads affected by winter weather.

FUTURE POTENTIAL IMPACTS: Overall, the potential economic impact of the recent and planned investments into the country’s road infrastructure is considerable. The new East-West Highway cuts a 1270-km path near the Mediterranean coast, providing a crucial link between the city of Tlemcen, close to the Moroccan border, and El Tarf in the west.

Most importantly, the highway connects 18 provinces in northern and coastal areas – the most fertile and economically productive region. The industry, agriculture, tourism and oil and gas exportation sectors all stand to benefit from easing traffic congestion in urban centres and extending more efficient transport links into rural areas. This will help allow them to better integrate into the national transport network.

The East-West Highway also has important implications for regional integration among the Arab Maghreb Union (UMA), which includes Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Libya and Mauritania. The highway will fit into the broader Trans-Maghreb Highway, which stretches 7000 km north from Nouakchott to Rabat, and then east to Tripoli. Improving transport efficiency will provide a helpful tool for increasing inter-Maghreb economic exchange, as well as tourism.

Due to North African countries’ orientation toward European markets dating back to the colonial period, regional trade remains low. However, while trade with other UMA member states only represented 3.5% of Algeria’s total in 2011, its volume expanded by 18% year-on-year to reach $2.16bn, indicating potential for growth. A robust road network should help with that.