Zambia Road Network

By | December 30, 2022

Zambia’s Trunk Roads.

According to wholevehicles, Zambia has a total classified road network of 67,671 kilometers, with a Core Road Network (CRN) covering 40,454 kilometers in 2013. This network is divided into 3,116 kilometers Trunk Roads (T), 3,701 kilometers Main Roads (M), 13,707 kilometers District Roads (D), 5,597 kilometers Urban Roads and 14,333 kilometers Primary Feeder Roads. A total of 10,107 kilometers of the Core Road Network is paved (25%). 97% of the Trunk Roads is paved, 78% of the Main Roads is paved, 15% of the District Roads is paved and 37% of the Urban Roads is paved. Only 0.2% of the Primary Feeder Roads is paved.

In the 1970s, Zambia had one of the most developed road networks in Africa, with an extensive network of tarmac roads. In fact, the paved road network was considered oversized, as many roads handled less than 300 vehicles per day at the time. This network still exists, but is often in poor condition due to lack of maintenance. Several roads lead from Lusaka to the various regions of Zambia.

There are no real highways in Zambia, but the road from Ndola to Kitwe in the Copperbelt is sometimes marked as such on maps. The road network is integrated with that of neighboring countries, with the exception of Angola, where there are virtually no major roads. This is because Angola had a civil war for years and the government in the sparsely populated southeast of Angola had no influence, and therefore could not build roads. Due to the Zambezi River and reservoirs such as Lake Kariba, the number of cross-border roads with Zimbabwe is also limited, there are actually two, to Harare and Bulawayo. A connection also runs to Francistown in Botswana, despite the border between the two countries being only 150 meters long. An east-west route from Livingstone runs through the Caprivi Strip of Namibia towards Grootfontein in that country. An important link runs between Chingola and Lubumbashi in the DRC, as this is a mining area. There are two border crossings with Tanzania and a number with Malawi, but of minor importance.

The road network in the capital Lusaka is relatively modern, with almost all streets around the center being paved. The city is crossed by 2×2 roads, which very sporadically have grade separated intersections. From the center a modern 2×3 road leads to the south west. Major roads often have road markings, making Lusaka’s road network resemble that of other major cities in southern Africa. Well-known fuel chains occur in Lusaka.

Trunk Routes in Zambia
T1 • T2 • T3 • T4 • T5 • T6

Road management

The national road authority in Zambia is the Road Development Agency (RDA). The RDA manages 67,671 kilometers of road, although it mainly focuses on the Core Road Network of 40,454 kilometers. There is also the Road Transport and Safety Agency (RTSA). This is an agency of the Ministry of Transport and Communications. The RDA and RTSA were established in 2002 and became fully operational in 2006.

Toll roads

In Zambia, tolls are levied on many main roads by the National Road Fund Agency (NRFA). The NRFA was established in 2002 and replaced the National Roads Board. The National Road Tolling Program was launched in 2013, originally for freight traffic only, but since 2016 for all vehicles. In 2021 there were 27 toll stations, plus 10 border crossings where foreign vehicles have to pay tolls. The NRFA funds all road projects in Zambia. The revenues consist not only of tolls, but also from the government budget and fuel excise duties, as well as a number of other specific levies and taxes.

History

The double lane T3 at Ndola.

Zambia was originally under British colonial rule and the many raw materials in the country ensured that the British developed the road network of Zambia quite early, from the 1930s there were several asphalt roads. The British also benefited from the relatively simple terrain, Zambia is largely a plateau without many differences in height and rivers, so that road construction here was simpler and cheaper than further north. The Victoria Falls Bridge at Livingstone on the Zimbabwean border opened to traffic in 1905 and was one of the first major bridges in Africa.

Before independence in 1964, Zambia had four paved corridors, the road from Lusaka to Victoria Falls, the road from Lusaka to Chirundu on the border with Zimbabwe and the most important, the road from Lusaka to the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo. In addition, there was a second paved corridor between Ndola and Kitwe in the Copperbelt. All these roads were in the central part of Zambia. There were no paved roads yet in the west and east.

After independence they started to asphalt more roads, the priority was the TAN-ZAM Road from Kapiri Mposhi to the border with Tanzania at Nakonde. This was the largest road project immediately after independence and was completed in 1973. Later in the 1970s, almost all trunk roadsof Zambia, much of the Zambian road network was built in the first decade of independence. The further modernization of the road network came to a halt from the mid-seventies due to the economic downturn. Presumably in the 1970s the T3 between Ndola and Kitwe was widened to 2×2 lanes over more than 60 kilometres, this is one of the few dual carriageways in the interior of central-southern Africa. The road network had to deal with reduced investment from the mid-1970s, mainly because the Zambian government spent a lot of money to support rebels in neighboring Zimbabwe. Near the border triangle with Mozambique and Zimbabwe is the Luangwa Bridge, which was destroyed by the Zimbabwean army in 1964 and 1979.

Between the mid-1970s and the mid-1990s, virtually no money was invested in the maintenance of the road network. The road network was largely in poor condition from the 1990s. In 1995 only 21% of the roads were in good condition. In 1998 the Road Sector Investment Program (ROADSIP I) was launched, with the ambition to modernize the road network. In 2009, Zambia had 7,213 kilometers of paved road. The situation only improved after 2010, when Zambia started various road programs financed by tolls and the established Road Fund. In 2012, a major program was launched to (re)asphalte 8,000 kilometers of road in Zambia. This is called the Link Zambia 8,000 / Pave Zambia project of the Road Development Agency. In addition, the Lusaka Urban Road (L400) Project was launched in 2013 to upgrade 402 kilometers of road in Lusaka. It is planned to double the T2-T3 between Lusaka and Ndola to 2×2 lanes. In 2021, the Kazungula Bridge over the Zambezi to Botswana opened.

Road numbering

The main road network consists of Trunk (T), Main (M) and District (D) Roads. The T-roads all run from Lusaka, or are branches of routes from Lusaka. M-roads form the other main road network.

Routes

# No. Route Length
T1 Lusaka – Livingston (gr. Zimbabwe) 426 km
T2 Nakonde (gr. Tanzania) – Lusaka – Chirundu (gr. Zimbabwe) 1,158 km
T3 Kapiri-Mposhi – Luanshya – Kitwe – Chingola – (gr. DRC) 260 km
T4 Lusaka – Chipata (gr. Malawi) 592 km
T5 Chingola – Ikofenge (gr. Angola) 547 km
T6 Katete – Mlolo (gr. Mozambique) 55 km

Signage

As a member of the SADC, Zambia follows the harmonized signage of Southern Africa, i.e. the style of signage and signage that is also common in other countries in the region, such as South Africa and Mozambique. Little is known about the concrete implementation.

Maximum speed

Zimbabwe ‘s speed limit is based on the Road Traffic Act of 2002 and was amended in 2020. The speed limit has been set as 30 km/h in school zones and pedestrian zones, 45 to 60 km/h elsewhere in built-up areas, 80 km/h on main roads in built-up areas and 120 km/h on paved roads outside built-up areas. The maximum speed limit is 70 km/h on unpaved roads.

The speed limit on paved roads outside built-up areas was originally 100 km/h, but has been increased to 120 km/h in 2020, in line with most other countries of the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

Zambia Road Network