Tajikistan Road Network

By | December 17, 2022

The Tunnel Khatlon of the RB04.

The RB05 as a gravel road over the Ak-Baital Pass.

According to wholevehicles, Tajikistan has a thin and underdeveloped road network. Due to the mountainous nature, traveling on most routes is very time consuming. A network of national trunk roads (роҳи байналмилалӣ (Rohi ʙajnalmilalī), prefix ‘RB’) form the main connections between parts of the country, supplemented by secondary trunk roads (роҳи ҷумҳуриявӣ (Rohi çumhurijavī), prefix ‘RJ’). The national main roads are in most cases paved. The exact length of the road network cannot be determined, mainly because of the definition of what is and what is not a road. However, the number of paved roads is limited. In many regions the RB roads are the only paved roads.

Tajikistan has no highways, but the major approach roads to the capital Dushanbe are equipped with 2×2 lanes, ranging from just 10 kilometers on the RB01 to the north, to 50 kilometers on the RB02 to the west and 70 kilometers on the RB09 to the south. Tajikistan’s main road is the RB01 and its extension RB13, which forms the north-south mountain route between the country’s two main cities: Dushanbe and Khujand. This route also has two tunnels of 5 kilometers in length, which have made the road much more passable in winter.

The rest of the main road network is mainly in southwestern Tajikistan, south of Dushanbe. This area is flatter and agricultural, and therefore densely populated. The capital Dushanbe has a grid of major trunk roads, most of which have 2×2 lanes, some also have 2×3 and 2×4 lanes. In Dushanbe there are some grade separated intersections. There are only two other grade separated intersections outside Dushanbe, on the RB01/RB13 near Nov and on the RB09 south of Dushanbe.

The Gorno-Badakshan Autonomous Region consists of extremely mountainous terrain, there is only one main road here, the RB04, which also forms the longest road in the country from Dushanbe to the border with China. It follows the Panj River which forms the border with Afghanistan. The RB03 provides an alternative access road to Gorno-Badakshan, via a high and unpaved mountain pass, which is often difficult to drive on. The RB05forms the link from Gorno-Badakshan to Kyrgyzstan, over the 4,655 meter high Ak-Baital Pass, the highest mountain pass in the country. In Gorno-Badakshan, the RB04 and RB05 are the only paved roads, but the highest parts of these roads are also unpaved, mostly above 4,000 meters, with the exception of the Kulma Pass on the border with China. The roughest road is the RB06, a gravel road along the Wakhan Corridor on the border with Afghanistan.

In the north of Tajikistan is a network of paved roads that lead to and from Khujand and a few other places. The border situation here is complex, especially around Isfara where several RB roads cross the border into Kyrgyzstan without boundaries being clearly defined. As a result, border posts are not present everywhere.

History

Soviet Socialist Republic of Tajikistan

In the second half of the 19th century, Russia began to conquer Central Asia. This led to tensions with the British Empire, which controlled South Asia. Afghanistan was the buffer zone. The first roads through the Pamir were built by the Russians at the end of the 19th century during ‘The Great Game’. These diplomatic tensions ended in 1895 with the establishment of the southern border of the Russian Empire. In the 1920s, Tajikistan’s first infrastructure began to be developed. The area became an autonomous Soviet socialist republic within the Uzbek SSR in 1924, from 1929 Tajikistan was a separate SSR within the Soviet Union.

Dushanbe was chosen as the capital of Tajikistan in 1924. At the time this was only a small village, it was chosen for its strategic location, not for its history. Roads to Dushanbe were built to stimulate the development of the city. However, Dushanbe is located south of the mountain ranges and was therefore only cumbersome to reach from the rest of the Soviet Union. In the 1930s, Tajikistan’s road network was further built, including the famous Pamir Highway and then the north-south route between Khujand and Dushanbe with two high mountain passes.

In the 1970s, Dushanbe’s grand boulevards lined with apartment blocks were developed, turning it into a distinctly Soviet city to impress. This was also the first period when roads with more than one lane in each direction were built in Tajikistan, but mainly in Dushanbe itself. During the Soviet Union two short sections with 2×2 lanes were probably constructed, between Dushanbe and Vahdat and between Khujand and Gafurov.

Road numbering was introduced during the Soviet Union, but this only happened around 1980. Two magistrales passed through Tajikistan, the M34 from Tashkent to Dushanbe and the M-41 from Bishkek to Termez, via the Pamir Highway and Dushanbe. In addition, the A-372, A-376, A-377, A-384 and A-385 were located in Tajikistan. However, the road network was only upgraded to a limited extent during the Soviet Union. High mountain passes were unpaved and difficult to drive on, the Gorno-Badakshan Autonomous Oblast was completely inaccessible. Also, there were no bridges over the Panj and Amu Darya to Afghanistan.

Independent Tajikistan

The RB01 in the mountains of Tajikistan.

In 1991 the Soviet Union fell apart and Tajikistan became an independent country, where civil war broke out almost immediately, especially over the independence of the Gorno-Badakshan Autonomous Region. This war lasted until 1997. The country has hardly been able to develop during this period. An additional problem was the complex border situation, especially in the Fergana Valley and northern Tajikistan. Important through roads suddenly had border crossings. Due to poor relations with neighboring Uzbekistan, that country closed most of its borders in the 1990s, leaving Tajikistan very isolated. During that period, Uzbekistan filled the border region with mines. The border situation with Kyrgyzstan has never been precisely defined, so there are constant disputes about the border here, especially around Isfara.

After 2000, Tajikistan’s economic situation began to improve. The country received support from other countries to develop infrastructure, initially through Saudi loans and later with support from Russia and Ukraine, followed later by Japanese and Chinese support. The highest priority was to improve the road from Dushanbe to Khujand, this road connects the two largest cities in the country but leads over two difficult mountain passes, especially in winter. In 2005 the Anzob Tunnel, a 5 kilometer long tunnel north of Dushanbe, was opened. For a very long time, however, this tunnel was only in use as a shell, and the tunnel was not finished until at least after 2020. Three other long tunnels were built between 2009 and 2013, two on the RB04between Dushanbe and Kulob and a second tunnel on the RB01 to Khujand. This solved the most serious need for accessibility. Between 2007 and 2010, the RB01 between Dushanbe and Khujand was also renovated for nearly $300 million.

After 2010 work began on widening the access roads to Dushanbe. In the period 2011-2016, the RB02 between Dushanbe and Tursunzoda was widened to 2×2 lanes over a distance of 50 kilometers. Tursunzoda is home to the Tajik Aluminum Company, the country’s main industrial asset. Between 2018 and 2021, 99 kilometers of the road between Dushanbe and Bokhtar (Qurgonteppa) has been widened to 2×2 lanes, largely including the RB09.

The border situation has also improved. In 2004, a border crossing with China at Kulma Pass at the end of the RB04 was inaugurated. Before that, traffic between China and Tajikistan had to pass via Irkeshtam, a section through Kyrgyzstan and via the RB07. Uzbek President Karimov passed away in 2016, after which relations with neighboring countries improved significantly. Most of the border crossings between Uzbekistan and Tajikistan were reopened in 2018, significantly alleviating the border situation. Before that, there were only four functional border crossings between the two countries, three of which were in northern Tajikistan and only one at Tursunzoda in the south of the country.

Tajikistan did not have its own road numbering system for a long time after the fall of the Soviet Union. In practice, the Soviet numbers were hardly or not at all indicated. In 2015, the country introduced a new road numbering system for RB and RJ roads. The RB numbers are also indicated on new signposts.

Main roads

Tajikistan’s RB roads.

# No. Route Length
РБ01 Dushanbe – Ayni – Istaravshan – Nov – Khujand 265 km
РБ02 Dushanbe – Hisor – Tursunzoda – border Uzbekistan 63 km
РБ03 Nurobod – Kalaikhum 132 km
РБ04 Dushanbe – Vahdat – Danghara – Gulistan – Kulob – Khorog – Murghab – Kulma Pass – China border 1,010 km
РБ05 Murghab – Ak-Baital Pass – Kyzyl-Art Pass – border Kyrgyzstan 185 km
РБ06 Khorog – Iskasim – Tuzkul’ 315 km
РБ07 Vahdat – Obigarm – border Kyrgyzstan 320 km
РБ08 Gulistan – Parkhar – Panj 85 km
РБ09 Dushanbe – Kyzylkala – Chorbog – Shahrtuz – Aiwanj 215 km
РБ10 Aiwanj – border Uzbekistan 33 km
РБ11 Bokhtar (Qurgonteppa) – Kolkhozabad – Dusti – Panj-e Payon – Afghanistan border 83 km
РБ12 Ayni – Panjakent – border Uzbekistan 113 km
РБ13 Border Uzbekistan – Konibodom – Khujand – Von – border Uzbekistan 130 km
РБ14 Khujand – Buston – border Uzbekistan 65 km
РБ15 Isfara – Batkent – border Kyrgyzstan 11 km
РБ16 Isfara – Chorku – border Kyrgyzstan 40 km
РБ17 Isfara – Lakkon 21 km
РБ19 Khujand – Samgar – Koshduk – border Uzbekistan 114 km
Major Roads in Tajikistan

Bridges to Afghanistan

Originally there were no border crossings with Afghanistan at all. During the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan, most troops passed through Termez de Amu Darya further west. The Amu Darya and to the east the Panj form the border with Afghanistan. The border area consists of inaccessible high mountains, on the Tajik side the RB04 and RB06 run parallel to the Afghan border, but in this region no roads go further into Afghanistan. The main bridge is at Panji Poyon, the only one suitable for heavy freight traffic and part of the road from Dushanbe to Kunduz.

Bridge Opening Location Comments
Tem-Demogan Bridge 03-11-2002 Tem-Demogan Bridge simple suspension bridge, not suitable for heavy traffic
Tajik–Afghan Friendship Bridge 06-07-2004 Tajik–Afghan Friendship Bridge simple suspension bridge, not suitable for heavy traffic
Ishkashim Bridge 31-10-2006 Ishkshim Bridge simple suspension bridge, not suitable for heavy traffic
Panji Poyon Bridge 26-08-2007 Panji Poyon Bridge Modern concrete bridge, suitable for heavy traffic
Shurobod Bridge 00-00-2017 Shurobod Bridge simple suspension bridge, not suitable for heavy traffic

European roads

European roads in Tajikistan
E60 • E123 • E006 • E008 • E009

Asian Highways

Asian Highways in Tajikistan
AH7 • AH65 • AH66

Toll roads

The toll booth on the RB13 in Dehmoy.

Tolls are charged on some roads in Tajikistan. The toll system is operated by Innovative Road Solutions (IRS). On April 1, 2010, tolls were introduced on the RB01 between Dushanbe and Khujand.

A toll plaza is called a Плазаи толлингӣ (Plazai tollingī) in Tajik. In 2020, there were 6 toll stations on the corridor RB01, RB13 and RB14 from Dushanbe via Khujand to the Uzbek border at Buston.

Road numbering

A signpost with the RB03 and RB04 in Kalaikhum.

A new road numbering system was introduced around 2015, consisting of РБ (RB) and РЧ (RJ) roads.

  • RB stands for роҳи байналмилалӣ (Rohi ʙajnalmilalī), international road
  • RJ stands for роҳи ҷумҳуриявӣ (Rohi çumhurijavī), republican road

The network of RB roads consists of 17 routes, numbered from RB 01 to RB 17, with a combined length of 3,147 kilometers.

The network of RJ roads consists of 95 routes, numbered from RJ 001 to RJ 095, with a combined length of 2,144 kilometers. A large number of RJ roads are less than 30 kilometers long.

The RB roads are shown on a red shield with white numbers. The road numbers (prefix) are in Cyrillic only. The leading zero is also indicated.

History

Before 2015, Tajikistan still used the old Soviet numbering system, of M and A routes. Due to the mountainous nature of the country, there were originally only a small number of numbered roads. An E-number system was introduced in Tajikistan around 2000, although this appears to be mainly administrative in nature. The E008 runs through the country via the former M41.

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. Sometimes a hyphen is applied between the prefix and the road number.

Tajikistan Road Network