Lesotho Road Network

By | October 31, 2022

The main roads (A-roads) of Lesotho.

According to wholevehicles, Lesotho has a network established at 9,346 kilometers, of which 1,942 kilometers are paved (21%). The road network managed by the Roads Directorate covers 6,005 kilometers, of which 1,756 kilometers are paved, 3,051 kilometers are gravel, 1,084 kilometers are dirt roads and 113 kilometers are just tracks.

Lesotho’s road network is relatively thin. There is a great contrast between the lower, more agricultural and more populous west and the middle and east of Lesotho, which is very mountainous. In the west, all A-roads and a number of B-roads are asphalted, in the rest of the country A-roads also have long stretches of gravel road that are difficult to drive on. The A1 is the only road paved all the way to the east of Lesotho. In the south of the country, the A2-A4 is paved to the border with South Africa at Qacha’s Neck, but not in the east. The A3 is the primary route to the east but is only paved halfway through the country.

In the central and eastern part of Lesotho, roads often lead over high mountain passes with often steep sections. There are numerous mountain passes of more than 2,000 meters in height, some even of more than 3,000 meters. In winter, these mountain passes are often difficult or impassable due to snowfall.

The most modern road network can be found in Maseru, where a number of roads have 2×2 lanes. However, compared to South Africa, the urban road network is less developed. The A2, A6 and A9 have 2×2 lanes in Maseru over short distances. The Maseru Bridge to South Africa is by far the most important border crossing of Lesotho, here about 60 percent of the total international traffic in Lesotho is handled.

In Lesotho, there is generally little traffic outside the Maseru region. In the mountain areas there is very little traffic, a lot of local transport is still carried out here with animals. There are also no larger towns in the mountain areas, so traffic flows are often limited. Although Lesotho is located in the middle of South Africa, there are no major thoroughfares through Lesotho. The country can be entered from various directions, but through traffic in South Africa will not pass through Lesotho.

Main roads in Lesotho
A1 • A2 • A3 • A4 • A5 • A6 • A7 • A8 • A9 • A11 • A12 • A13 • A20 • A22 • A23 • A24 • A31 • A41

Road management

Lesotho’s national road authority is the Roads Directorate. The Roads Directorate was established by the Roads Directorate Act of 2010. The financing of the road network has been established with the Road Fund. The Road Fund was established in 1995. The Road Fund is financed by the Road Maintenance Levy (fuel tax), tolls at border posts, vehicle registration and traffic fines.

Toll roads

There are no regular toll roads in Lesotho. Cross-border traffic must pay a ‘toll gate fee’. In 2021 there were 9 border posts with tolls. The border bridge at Maseru accounts for 60 percent of all toll revenue.

History

Roads in Basutoland

At the time of the British colonial period, Basutoland was little developed. The economic center of the country was the western border region with South Africa, the only part of the country where agriculture is possible on a larger scale. In 1965 there was talk of a network of 385 kilometers of main roads, 1,000 kilometers of district roads and 650 kilometers of local roads. These roads were unpaved at the time. The main road link has always been the ‘North-South Road’, which runs parallel to the western border of the country and connects the main agricultural regions and largest towns. In 1965 there were only 2,000 motor vehicles in Basutoland.

The north-south road was designated an improved gravel road in 1965, having been improved mainly in the 1950s and 1960s. Parts of this road were still narrow, winding and steep at the time. At the time, many roads were only passable by 4×4 vehicles. Roads suitable for motor vehicles existed only in western Lesotho at that time, in the interior and in the mountains there were no roads of any significance at that time.

Roads in independent Lesotho

The Moteng Pass of the A1.

In 1966 Basutoland became independent, the name of the country was then changed to Lesotho. At independence Lesotho had a very limited road network in the west of the country, mostly an improved gravel road at best, many roads being no more than tracks impassable for heavy vehicles or passenger cars. In the second half of the 1960s, the North-South Road (A1) was paved from Maseru to Hlotse. This was the first longer tarmac road from Lesotho.

In the 1970s, Lesotho embarked on a program to upgrade dirt roads to gravel/ all-weather roads and asphalt major roads. In 1978 Lesotho had a network of 1,800 kilometers of classified roads, 13 percent of which were paved (235 kilometers). The road network continued to grow in the 1970s and early 1980s, in 1983 Lesotho had 2,386 kilometers of classified road, of which 405 kilometers were asphalted. In 1992 Lesotho had 5,000 kilometers of classified road, 800 kilometers of which were paved.

In 1975 Lesotho started building roads to the east of the country, through the mountain areas. Priority was given to the A1 via the north and the A3 through the center of the country. Both roads passed through very mountainous terrain and were difficult to achieve. In 1990 the tarmac road of the A1 over Moteng Pass was completed. In 1997 the A1 through the highlands to Mokhotlong was completed. This is the highest road in Lesotho, with a ski area called Afriski. In 1982 there were 21,000 motor vehicles in Lesotho.

Around the turn of the century, some road improvements were carried out in the capital, Maseru. In 1998 the A7 opened as a bypass of Maseru, however this road quickly became overgrown with buildings. In 2001 the A9 opened as a double lane bypass of the historic Kingsway in the center of Maseru. This is the highest quality road in Lesotho and also has the country’s first and as yet only grade-separated intersection. The largest new construction projects were the construction of the southern part of the A5 in 2011, where there was previously no road connection, and the A8, which opened in 1991 in support of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project, which saw the construction of one of Africa’s largest dams.

Lesotho Road Network