The Setting of Road Transport Systems

the road

Roads and rails are the two major modes that compose the land transport system. Roads were established first, as steam rail technology only became available by the 18th century, amid the industrial revolution. Historical considerations are important in assessing the structure of current land transportation networks. Modern roads tend to follow the network structure established by previous roads, as it was the case for the contemporary European road network. The current roads of Italy, France, and Britain follow the structure established by the Roman road network centuries before.

The first land roads took their origins from trails, which were generally used to move from one hunting territory to another. With the emergence of the first empires, trails started to be used for commercial purposes as trade expanded. Some became roads, primarily through the domestication of animals such as horses, mules, and camels. The use of wheeled vehicles encouraged the construction of better roads to support the additional weight since heavier vehicles quickly damage an unpaved surface. However, a road transport system requires a level of labor organization, financing, and administrative control that could only be provided by a form of governmental oversight offering some military protection over trade routes.

By 3,000 BCE, the first paved road systems appeared in Mesopotamia, and asphalt was used to pave roads in Babylon by 625 BC. The Persian Empire had a road system of 2,300 km in the 5th century BC. However, the Roman Empire established the first major road system from 300 BC and onward, mainly for economic, military, and administrative reasons. It relied on reliable road engineering methods, including the laying of foundations and the construction of bridges. This was also linked with the establishment of pan-continental trading routes, such as the Silk Road, linking Europe and Asia by 100 BC. Most of these routes were, however, marked paths.