Kyrgyzstan Road Network

By | October 31, 2022

The EM-04 through the mountains of the Kyrgyz Ala-Too Range south of Bishkek.

According to wholevehicles, Kyrgyzstan has a limited road network that is also moderately to poorly developed. The country has formidable obstacles in the road network due to the many mountain ranges of the Pamir and Tian Shan, as well as impractical borders in the Fergana Valley. However, Kyrgyzstan’s road network has improved, most major roads have been modernized. Kyrgyzstan’s main road network consists mainly of single carriageway roads with counter traffic, regularly crossing high mountain passes, some relatively easy to drive, others challenging, not least because of the weather.

There are no real highways in Kyrgyzstan. There is, however, a 160-kilometre stretch of the EM-11 with 2×2 lanes equipped between Bishkek and Balykchy on the large lake Issyk-Kul. This is also the main road for tourism. The EM-14 is the only other 2×2 lane road outside the city roads in Bishkek. The capital Bishkek is also the only city in Kyrgyzstan with a functional bypass, the EM-02.

The country’s main road is the EM-04 between Bishkek and Osh, the country’s two largest cities. This road leads straight through mountain ranges via the Kolbaev Tunnel at an altitude of 3,200 meters. An alternative north-south route, comprising sections of the EM-12, EM-18 and newly constructed roads, has been developed between Balykchy and Jalal-Abad. The main north-south route from eastern Kyrgyzstan is the EM-11 from Bishkek via Balykchy, Kochkor and Naryn to the border with China at the Torugart Pass.

Much of the secondary roads in Kyrygzstan are unpaved, especially outside the larger cities. Often the flat valleys where agriculture is possible are relatively densely populated, the main roads in such areas lead long stretches through built-up areas, often there are whole areas with villages that have grown together.

The scenery from the road is spectacular, many roads lead through high mountains, the country has many mountain passes over 3,000 meters high. The Tian Shan dominates the country. There are also roads around Lake Issyk-Kul. Most important mountain passes are located on north-south routes, but they also occur on a number of east-west routes.

The situation around the Fergana Valley is complex, where the country has many bypasses of roads that partly came to lie in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan after the fall of the Soviet Union. Today it is possible to reach all parts of Kyrgyzstan without having to drive through Uzbekistan, Tajikistan or exclaves thereof. Most border crossings are also back in use.

History

The Taldyk Pass between Osh and Sary-Tash in South Kyrgyzstan.

During the Soviet Union, investments were made in the Kyrgyz road network, so most routes were paved. Construction of high-quality roads was limited under the Soviet Union, with the biggest investment being the construction of a new double-lane road from Bishkek to Boomskoye Gorge, a 105-kilometer stretch that is believed to have 2×2 lanes during the 1970s. It was also during this period that the 2×2-lane EM-14 opened between Bishkek and the airport, which was put into service in 1974. It is possible that the EM-02 was also constructed as a bypass of Bishkek during that period.

A major issue in the period of the Soviet Union was the connection between Bishkek and the Fergana Valley. The Soviet M-41 originally passed over the Töö Ashuu Pass, an approximately 3,570 meter high mountain pass that was difficult to drive in winter. The road was regularly closed during the winter. Between 1962 and 1964, the K. Kolbaev Tunnel was constructed under the pass height here. The tunnel is 2.7 kilometers long and is located at an altitude of 3,200 meters. The tunnel made it possible that the pass route became suitable for freight traffic, and that freight traffic did not have to drive via Tashkent.

After 1980, little was invested in the road network of the Kyrgyz SSR. After the fall of the Soviet Union, Kyrgyzstan inherited a limited and deteriorating road network, plus a complex border situation in the Fergana Valley. Due to the closing of the borders and the disappearance of export markets, the Kyrgyz economy collapsed, during the 1990s hardly any investment was made in the road network. The renovation of the Kolbaev Tunnel was one of the few major projects from that period.

The situation started to improve significantly after 2010. With foreign financial support, Kyrgyzstan’s road network was refurbished, especially in the period 2010-2017 many important roads were completely re-surfaced. The border situation in the Fergana Valley was also significantly improved by the construction of bypasses and the reopening of the borders later. Today a large part of the through roads is in fair condition. The least good main roads are in the central part of Kyrgyzstan, a region with few places of interest and difficult terrain.

Fergana Valley

The Fergana Valley was the most populous part of the Soviet Union outside the Moscow region. Kyrgyz, Uzbeks and Tajiks live together. In the 1950s, the Soviet Union drew borders from the three republics, but because there were no physical border posts, this did not lead to practical problems. The boundaries are not defined in detail in many areas. This became a major problem with the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, when the once integrated Fergana Valley suddenly became three countries with very erratic borders and the presence of enclaves and exclaves. The situation was exacerbated by Uzbekistan ‘s relationswith neighboring countries deteriorated, almost all border crossings were closed. The Osh region lost much of its historic market, the industry collapsed and families could no longer see each other.

A major problem for Kyrgyzstan was the Soviet M-41, now the EM-04, which runs from Bishkek to Osh and after 1991 ended up on two routes in Uzbekistan. A bypass has been built for this purpose and a major route change between Jalal-Abad and Osh has been made, making the road 50 kilometers longer, but remaining entirely within Kyrgyz territory.

Even more complex was the road from Osh to the Batken region in western Kyrgyzstan. Primary road links in this area passed through the densely populated Fergana Valley, with a secondary link from Osh to Batken via Sokh. However, Sokh was an Uzbek exclave, creating the situation that it was impossible to reach the Batken region without passing through Uzbek and Tajik territory, whose borders were also partially closed. Kyrgyzstan subsequently provided the EM-16 road with diversions on several routes that remained outside Uzbek territory. This required the construction of many tens of kilometers of new road, which was largely completed in the period 2010-2016.

The exclaves of Uzbekistan and Tajikistan in Kyrgyzstan do not have formal border posts in most cases, but since the completion of the EM-16 it is possible for traffic to remain entirely within Kyrgyzstan and thus avoid any conflicts with the exclaves. These exclaves are a source of ethnic conflict due to the lack of water, land and unclear boundaries and ownership situations.

Main road network

The EM roads of Kyrgyzstan.

The EM-11 near the border with China at the Torugart Pass.

# No. Route Length
-01 Bishkek – Lugovoye – border Kazakhstan 17 km
-02 Bypass Bishkek 40 km
-03 Kara-Balta – Chaldybar – border Kazakhstan 32 km
-04 Bishkek – Kara-Balta – Bazar-Korgon – Jalal-Abad – Uzgen – Osh 695 km
-05 Osh – Gulcha – Sary-Tash – Irkestham – China border 255 km
-06 Sary-Tash – Karamyk – Tajikistan border 133 km
-07 Sary-Tash – Kyzylart – Tajikistan border 41 km
-08 Tyup – Taldy-Su – border Kazakhstan 76 km
-09 Balykchy – Ananyevo – Tyup – Karakol 222 km
-10 Balykychy – Bokonbayevo – Karakol 223 km
-11 Bishkek – Tokmok – Balykchy – Naryn – Torugart – Border China 525 km
ЭМ-12 Jalal-Abad – Kazarman 160 km
ЭМ-13 Ak-Tal – Kazarman ? km
ЭМ-14 Bishkek – Manas International Airport 24 km
ЭМ-15 Osh – border Uzbekistan 5 km
ЭМ-16 Osh – Kyrgyz-Ata – Kyzyl-Kiya – Batken – Isfana – Kayragach – Tajikistan border 405 km
ЭМ-17 Suusamyr – Talas – border Kazakhstan 190 km
ЭМ-18 Kochkor – Aral – Too-Ashu 213 km
ЭМ-19 Uzgen – Kara-Kuldzha – Alaiku ? km
ЭМ-20 Bishkek – Tokmok 82 km
-21 Kadamzhay – Chechme – Sokh – border Uzbekistan 60 km
-22 Batken – Sokh – border Uzbekistan 30 km
-23 Balyckhy – Kyvak Pass – Kochkor 26 km
Major Roads in Kyrgyzstan

European roads

Kyrgyzstan has been a member of UNECE since 1993. E-roads were introduced in Kyrgyzstan in 1999.

European roads in Kyrgyzstan
E40 • E60 • E125 • E007 • E010 • E011

Asian Highways

Asian Highways in Kyrgyzstan
AH5 • AH7 • AH61 • AH65

Road numbering

The current road numbering system was introduced in Kyrgyzstan in 2017. The main roads have the prefix ЭМ (EM), an abbreviation for Эл аралык магистраль (El aralık magistral, International Highway). Of these, 23 are routes, from ЭМ-01 to ЭМ-23. The prefix M stands for Мамлекеттик магистраль (Mamlekettik magistral State Highway). This numbering goes from the M-001 to M-122. The old east-west route through Bishkek is numbered as the M-001. These numbers are also signposted. E-routes were introduced in Kyrgyzstan around 2000, a new series with three numbers and starting with a zero. The E005 is therefore a different number than the E5.

Old numbering

Around 2004, the first road numbering of EM roads was introduced in Kyrgzystan. This numbering went from EM-01 to EM-16. This numbering was replaced in 2017 by a more extensive numbering with numbers up to EM-23. These road numbers were signposted at the time, making Kyrgyzstan one of the first Central Asian countries with signposted road numbering that was not based on the Soviet numbering.

  • ЭМ-01: Kazakhstan – Kara-Balta – Bishkek – Kazakhstan (formerly M39, but bypasses Bishkek with city route M-001)
  • ЭМ-02: Kara-Balta – Suusamyr – Jalal-Abad – Osh – Sary-Tash – China (formerly M41 – A371)
  • ЭМ-03: Sary-Tash – Kyzyl-suu – Tajikistan (formerly A372)
  • ЭМ-04: Sary-Tash – Karamyk – Tajikistan (formerly M41)
  • ЭМ-05: Balkychy – Tyup – Jergalan – Kazakhstan (formerly A362)
  • ЭМ-06: Ottuk – Karakol (formerly A363)
  • ЭМ-07: Bishkek – Balykchy – Ottuk – Kochkor – Naryn – China (formerly A365)
  • -08: unknown
  • ЭМ-09: Bishkek – Manas Airport (continues as M-004 to Kamyshanovka)
  • ЭМ-10: unknown
  • ЭМ-11: Osh – Uzbekistan (formerly A373)
  • -12: unknown
  • ЭМ-13: Osh – Isfana
  • ЭМ-14: Suusamyr – Kyzyl-Adur – Kazakhstan (formerly A361)
  • ЭМ-15: unknown
  • ЭМ-16: Suusamyr – Kochkor (formerly A367)

Signage

The signage is still the old Soviet signage with the accompanying mediocre quality. Road numbers are not always indicated and the signs are often only in Cyrillic. The plates are blue with white capital letters. The road numbers that were introduced around 2004 are sometimes indicated. Sometimes a hyphen is applied between the prefix and the road number.

Maximum speed

In November 2019, the speed limit on some roads outside built-up areas was increased from 90 to 110 km/h.

Kyrgyzstan Road Network