The land transport system comprises the national road system (8,762 km), provincial (approximately 8,100 km), and perhaps another eight thousand district, local and other roads, and eight hundred bridges. The national road include 3,335 km of designated “roads of national importance,” often called “priority roads,” and the focus of most maintenance and improvement efforts. There are 2,647 km sealed roads, almost all in the national system. Central Western Highlands, Eastern Highlands, East Sepik, Madang and West New Britain have the most extensive networks. Apart from the Highlands Highway linking Lae with Goroka, Kundiawa, Mount Hagen, Mendi and their hinterlands, most of the national network is discontinuous, serving the relatively well-developed areas around the main commercial centers. The poorest parts of the country are the most poorly served by the road network.Geographic features, most noticeably several very large rivers, divide the road system into several distinct networks. The road system’s length has not increased since 2000. The government’s current policy is to improve the existing road network, rather than expand it (expansion would deny maintenance funds to existing roads and result in a net system loss. Landslides, floods and other natural disasters are frequent, necessitating repeated emergency works. Roads conditions are generally not good, but the Department of Works (DOW) has made considerable progress in maintaining, rehabilitating and upgrading national roads. The length of national roads classified in “Good” condition (according to the DOW’s RAMS database) rose from 17% in 2004 to 32% in 2010. Today, 48% of the priority roads are in good condition.
There are no reliable up-to-date traffic counts. In general roads are confined to major centres with limited inter town highways. Due to a lack of regular maintenance, some highways and most of the feeder roads have deteriorated to such an extent that they are only accessible by 4wheel drive vehicles. The smaller feeder roads which link the main roads are mostly unsealed and in the rural areas the traditional bush tracks are still the only roads available.
The main highways are:
- The Okuk Highway (formerly Highlands Highway): Runs from Lae through to Goroko, Mt Hagen and Madang
- Hiritano Highway: Runs from Port Moresby through to Kerema
- Magi Highway: Runs from Port Moresby through to Aroma coast
There is no road connection between Port Moresby and the Highlands and the MOMASE region (Morobe, Madang and Sepik provinces). Other roads link major towns in several islands, like in New-Britain. Here also, it is extremely difficult receiving updated and comprehensive information from a centralized agency. The only land border crossing is between Vanimo in Sandaun Province and Jayapura in Papua Province (West Papua), Indonesia. This border (PNG 9am-5pm, Indonesia 8am-4pm) is open and operating pretty smoothly, but it has a history of closing at short notice so check in advance.
Traffic levels are very low: 74 percent of the national network carries less than 500 vehicles per day and 89 percent less than 1,000 vehicles a day. Traffic on the provincial and lower-level networks is much lower.
The impact of deteriorating accessibility on life in rural communities is evident in lower standards of health and education, declining availability of goods and services, and high-cost and unreliable transport services. Whereas in the past people could carry a basket of vegetables or bag of coffee for market to the nearest road-head knowing that a transport service will be available there, they now risk finding none available and their produce going to spoil. The sick can no longer be assured of access to a clinic or hospital, and the medical services available there have deteriorated too, partly due to the increased costs of transport. Accessibility standards are declining. Already some 35 percent of the population lives more than 10 km from a national road and 17 percent from any road at all, and the roads are getting worse. As roads have deteriorated, transport costs have increased from 40 and 60 percent in real terms. Fewer market opportunities are available and people can afford fewer daily necessities. People are often reverting to a subsistence living or deserting the rural areas for the limited prospect of employment in urban centres. Health and education indicators are generally falling and government control is weakening.
Roads, especially in rural areas, are in poor condition. Other common safety risks on PNG roads include erratic and drunk drivers, poorly maintained vehicles and over-crowded vehicles. The rugged topography comprising large and complex mountain chains, swamps, rivers and remote islands, presents a daunting challenge to transport. There are currently no roads linking the capital with the north coast or Highlands where the majority of people live. Internal transport is by air and sea; this makes the movement of goods and people expensive and constrains the development of internal markets.
Furthermore, much of the existing infrastructure is quickly deteriorating as a result of insufficient maintenance. The main highway from the northern port of Lae into the populous highlands region is frequently impassable. The costs of poor road maintenance are borne by truck operators in high operating costs and insurance rates. Huge donors funded infrastructure maintenance and repair programs do not reach their objectives due to delays in implementation. The 8,700 km of national roads constitute the backbone of the road system. There are about 1,000 km of provincial and district roads that link provincial economic and population centres and provide access to the rural areas. Thousands of kilometers of minor rural roads built from 1950 to 1970, connecting rural areas with the main road networks, are badly deteriorated. About half of all feeder roads in the country have become impassable to any vehicles carrying significant loads. Sealed roads have degenerated to poor gravel roads, gravel roads have reduced to earth tracks, and some routes have closed altogether. By 2005, only about 37% of the overall road network (about 8,400 km) was in a maintainable condition (i.e., capable of receiving routine maintenance attention), and about half the network required some significant rehabilitation, restoration, or reconstruction to make the roads trafficable. Much of the past investment in road rehabilitation and upgrading had been lost through subsequent maintenance neglect. AusAID and ADB are giving significant support to the GoPNG to try to address this issue.
- In recent decades, there has been no increase in the number of kilometres of paved roads
- Security constraints (attacks, crimes) are obvious using the main highways
- Those highways cannot reach the majority of the villages, even if not too far from the main highway journey
- Aair assets to reach the final delivery destinations from the highway’s intermediate hubs is advisable
Road Construction / Maintenance
Responsibility for roads is shared between the national government, 19 provincial governments and the National Capital District Commission (NCDC). At the national level, the Department of Works (DOW) has Offices of Works (POOWs) in the provinces and the National Capital District (NCD), each managed by a Provincial Works Manager (PWM). The PWMs are responsible for maintaining all national roads in their province. When funds are available – which is not often – this is usually done on a project basis (the work usually involves some rehabilitation) by local contractors, but most POOWs also have a small day labor force for limited routine activities. Development and maintenance of provincial roads, when done at all, are carried out by Provincial Works Units (PWUs) under the control of provincial governments. These units are quite small and have limited technical capabilities. Local rural and urban roads are managed by local or municipal administrations with very few resources.
Because of limited budgets, few new roads have been built in recent years, other than in urban areas. By default, priority has been given to emergency repairs and rehabilitation, the latter mostly with donor assistance. Following pressure from users and donors, and with a growing recognition of the economic costs imposed by poorly maintained roads and bridges and the significant benefits of preventive maintenance, efforts have been made to develop improved systems and procedures for asset management. At the same time, options for establishing a more reliable system for funding road and bridge maintenance have been reviewed.
Class: National Roads
National roads system (8,762 km). There are 2,647 km sealed roads, almost all in the national system.
Class: Priority Roads
The national roads include 3,335 km of designated “roads of national importance,” often called “priority roads,” and the focus of most maintenance and improvement efforts. There are 2,647 km sealed roads, almost all in the national system.
Class: Provincial roads
Provincial roads system (approximately 8,100 km)
Class: District, local and other roads
+/- 8.000 km
+/- 800, often in a very bad condition (except on the Highlands Highway)
National Departments of Works
National Departments of Works
Provincial Departments of Works
+/- 8,100 km
District, local and other roads
Districts and LLG
+/- 8,000 km
The main highways are:
- The Okuk Highway (formerly Highlands Highway)
- Runs from Lae through to Goroko, Mt Hagen and Madang
- Hiritano Highway
- Runs from Port Moresby through to Kerema
- Magi Highway
- Runs from Port Moresby through to Aroma coast
Security Level: Bad
Roads, especially in rural areas, are in poor condition. Other common safety risks on PNG roads include erratic and drunk drivers, poorly maintained vehicles and over-crowded vehicles.
Weighbridges and Axle Load Limits
Weighbridges are found on the main highways. The most important transport companies and factories in the country also have their own weighbridges.
Truck axle combination
Total weight allowances (as of 2010)
Rigid truck Single steer and Single axle
15 tonne + 10% liquid = 16.5 tonne
Rigid truck Single steer and Tandem axle
26 tonne + 10% liquid = 28.6 tonne
Rigid truck with Single steer and Single axle Drive followed by Single Axle Steer and Single axle trailer
30 tonne + 10% liquid = 33 tonne
Rigid truck with Trailer Single steer, Tandem drive with Single steer trailer and Tandem trailer axles
52 tonne + 10% liquid = 57.2 tonne
Twin Steer Rigid truck, Tandem drive with Single steer trailer and Tandem trailer axles
12 tonne + 20 tonne + 6 tonne + 20 tonne + 10% liquid = 63.8 tonne
Twin Steer Rigid truck, with Tandem drive
32 tonne + 10% liquid = 35.2 tonne
Semi-trailer Single Steer and Single Axle Trailer
35 tonne + 10% liquid = 38.5 tonne
Semi-trailer Single Steer, Single Drive and Tandem Trailer
32 tonne + 10% liquid = 35.2 tonne
Semi-trailer Single Steer, Tandem Drive and Triaxle Trailer
48 tonne + 10% liquid = 52.8 tonne
B Double Single Steer, Tandem Drive, Tandem Lead and Tandem Trailer
70 tonne + 10% liquid = 77 tonne
B Double Single Steer, Tandem Drive, Tri Axle Lead Trailer and Tri Axle Main
70 tonne + 10% liquid = 77 tonne
Road Train Single Steer, Tandem Drive, Tri Axle Trailer, Tandem Dolly, Tri Axle Trailer
90 tonne + 10% liquid = 99 tonne
- All combinations other than those listed need application to the nearest NRA offie.
- During controls, should the vehicle gross exceed the maximum weight authorized, the liquid allowance will be lost
There are +/- 800 bridges classified on the national system, often in a very bad condition (except on the Highlands Highway). For example, nearly all the bridges on the Bougainville Northern coast highway are broken since years