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IRAP

Integrated Rural Accessibility Planning (IRAP) 

IRAP is one of the most successful planning frameworks to have emerged from the rural transport field. Below is a description of the IRAP process, or click one of our resource guides to access a wide range of IRAP publications:

Access and IRAP
IRAP Guidelines
Case Studies
Training Workshops

For a long time building roads in rural areas was considered as one of the main solutions to promote economic and social rural accessibility and its translation into a planning process has its origins in the work of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in several African and Asian countries during the 1980’s. The major work on accessibility planning took place in the Philippines during 1990-95, where an Integrated Rural Accessibility Planning (IRAP) procedure was developed as a planning tool for use by local level planners to make the most appropriate investments with the limited funds available to them.

The IRAP methodology defines the access needs of rural households in relation to the basic, social and economic services that a household requires (water, fuelwood, health, education, markets, employment, agricultural fields, etc.). It is a simple-to-use participatory and integrated planning methodology that has been successfully applied in over 15 countries, in certain cases leading to its nationwide incorporation into local level planning systems. The IRAP methodology leads to the development of comprehensive information on the location, condition and use of rural infrastructure and services, identifies appropriate access interventions and prioritises investments.

Although the IRAP process varies slightly by country, it generally consists of the following three stages:

1. Data collection - In the data collection stage, the aim is to collect the information required for determining the existing access situation. Very important in this stage is primary data collection, through questionnaires and household interviews. Ensuring the participation of representatives of the different communities is crucial in obtaining appropriate data, required for the further IRAP process. The data collected relates to travel and transport patterns of the households with regards to different services and facilities, as well as to the characteristics of the existing infrastructure and services. The use of mapping tools is an important feature of this stage, generally facilitating the collection of data regarding the location of different services and infrastructure.

2. Data analysis and prioritisation - In this second stage understanding the main access problems and identifying possible interventions comes through participatory spatial and sectoral analysis, where priority communities are identified for each sector, and priority sectors are identified for each community. Two important tools are used in this stage: the Accessibility Indicator (AI) and Access Mapping. The AI is a formula calculated to determine the level of access of a certain community or group of communities to a particular service or facility. In its most basic form, it is the product of the number of households seeking access and the average travel time required to access the particular service or facility (AI=HH*TT). Generally additional factors are added on to the formula, such as the target travel time, mode of transportation, trip frequency, weighting factors and scoring systems depicting the importance of the particular service, quality and capacity factors of the service, etc. The general conclusion has been, however, that the inclusion of additional factors tends to complicate the calculation, without necessarily improving the outcome. More specific information regarding the calculation of the AI can be found in the different documents reviewed in this section of the website. Accessibility Mapping is the second major tool of the IRAP process, and is a prerequisite for visualising the spatial nature of rural accessibility. Mapping helps both the planner and the communities concerned to explain, discuss and understand the different aspects of access, as well as the impact of potential interventions. The application of Accessibility Mapping varies from simple sketches on the ground, to professional paper maps with overlays and full Geographical Information Systems (GIS). Representatives of the communities are strongly involved in this stage as well, resulting in a consensus regarding the prioritisation of the encountered accessibility problems.

3. Project identification and preparation - In this final stage of the IRAP process, interventions are identified and prioritised that will improve the accessibility of the communities in the area for which the planner is responsible. These include interventions aimed at minimising the need for transport (non-transport interventions including the improvement and siting of services - proximity), and at making that transport which is essential, as efficient and cost-effective as possible (transport interventions including transport infrastructure, means and services - mobility). It is herein important for the planner to identify interventions that may have an impact beyond the single community, thus optimising the impact of the limited investment funds available at local level. The result of this stage is a prioritised list of interventions, which again is shared and discussed with representatives of the communities. For each intervention a project is subsequently prepared and systems are developed to monitor the impact on accessibility. In the project design it is important to take into account the participation of local people and contractors in the implementation, thus resulting in additional benefits in the form of employment and incomes. Also an appropriate maintenance system needs to be put into place to ensure the sustained improvement of the access situation.

IRAP has proved to be a very useful tool for local authorities in determining the access needs of rural communities and in identifying and prioritising possible interventions. It has demonstrated its adaptability to different contexts and objectives, as is clearly demonstrated by the variety of formulas that exist for calculating the Accessibility Indicator, all of which are based on the same foundation. The simplicity of its use in combination with the strength of its analytical ability, has resulted in various countries in its nationwide incorporation into local level planning systems.

For a guide to the various IRAP resources click on one of the following links:

Access and IRAP
IRAP Guidelines
Case Studies
Training Workshops