Uzbekistan Road Network

By | December 27, 2022

According to wholevehicles, Uzbekistan has a relatively dense network of roads in the east of the country, which is also by far the most densely populated. The country has no real highways, but it does have an extensive network of roads with 2×2 lanes. These are often simple roads that do not have highway characteristics, they often run through built-up areas and there are many level crossings. The parts of Uzbekistan where agriculture is possible are generally densely populated and these areas are served by a network of roads, however large parts of them are in poor condition or unpaved. Major thoroughfares are also not always in good condition.

The country still uses the road numbering from the time of the Soviet Union. The country has nearly 2,000 numbered roads with a total length of nearly 25,000 kilometers. The M39 is the country’s main road, connecting Tashkent with Samarkand and Termez. The M37 branches off from Samarkand via Navoi and Bukhara to the border with Turkmenistan. The M34 has little meaning for through traffic, but used to be the transit route from Tashkent to Dushanbe. The M41 originally ran both through the Fergana Valley and in the south of the country from Dushanbe to Termez. The part in the Fergana Valley is no longer a functional thoroughfare due to broken border sections.

A network of A-roads supplements this, which in practice have the same importance as many M-roads. The A373 is the main access road from Tashkent to the Fergana Valley over Kamchik Pass. The entire road has 2×2 lanes. The A376 runs from Jizzakh via Khujand in Tajikistan to Kokand, but as this requires two border crossings and a drive through Tajikistan, the A373 is more popular for reaching the Fergana Valley. The A376 is located much lower than the A373 over the Kamchik Pass which is sensitive to winter weather.

The A377 from Samarkand to Ayni in Tajikistan has little meaning anymore. The A378 is a double-lane road between Samarkand and Guzar and has become the preferred route into southern Uzbekistan over the traditional M39, which crosses a much higher mountain pass between the two towns and is a serpentine two-lane road. The A379 is a road from Navoi to remote Uchkuduk. This is important for the mining industry but otherwise has little significance within Uzbekistan.

The A380 is Uzbekistan’s longest road. This runs from Guzar via Qarshi, Bukhara and Nukus to the border with Kazakhstan. Significant parts of this route have been improved with quite long stretches of 2×2 lanes. This is the only through road to the Autonomous Republic of Karakalpakstan and the shortest connection to Europe. The A381 is a branch to the north of Turkmenistan.

The Ring Tashkent is not as high-quality as many ring roads around other megacities in the former Soviet Union.

History

The M39 at Yangiyul, not far from Tashkent.

During the Soviet Union

Uzbekistan’s road network has mainly been developed since the 1930s, as part of the Soviet Union’s large-scale agricultural projects, especially the cultivation of cotton in the valleys of the Syr Darya and Amu Darya. The major thoroughfares were built in that period and modernized from the 1960s. During the Soviet Union, a number of routes have already been widened to 2×2 lanes, especially in the Tashkent – Samarkand – Bukhara corridor. Tashkent was the fourth largest city in the Soviet Union at the time, but was destroyed by an earthquake in 1966. The city and its infrastructure was then rebuilt in a short time, by 1970 it had been transformed into a model city according to the Soviet model, with flats and wide boulevards. The Ring Tashkent was also constructed during that period.

Important was the Fergana Valley in eastern Uzbekistan. At the time, this was the most populous region of the Soviet Union after Moscow. Here Uzbeks, Kyrgyz and Tajiks lived side by side. Administrative boundaries were drawn here between the three Soviet republics in the 1950s, but these had no implications in everyday life at the time. The main road link to the Fergana Valley at the time was the M34-A376, which followed the flattest route along the Syr Darya from Tashkent via Hovos and Khujand to Kokand. Alternative approach roads to the Fergana Valley were much more mountainous, notably the M41 from Bishkek and the M34 from Dushanbe. The A373 over Kamchik Pass was a shorter route from Tashkent and was the lowest of all mountain routes to the Fergana Valley.

In the 1960s, the road network to western Uzbekistan was sparsely developed. The A379 from Navoi to Uchkuduk was built during that period because of the uranium mining in that area, which was important for the Soviet nuclear weapons program. The A380 to Nukus was also developed because of the importance of cotton production in the valley of the Amu Darya south of the Aral Sea. It is striking, however, that the road network of the Uzbek SSR in the west was hardly integrated with that of the other SSRs. West of Bukhara, for example, there was only one functional cross-border road to a neighboring republic, the A381 from Nukus to Konye-Urgench.

Independent Uzbekistan

The A373 over Kamchik Pass.

After the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, Uzbekistan inherited a relatively extensive but poorly maintained road network. Of all the countries in Central Asia, Uzbekistan had by far the densest road network, especially in the eastern half of the country. Under President Karimov, Uzbekistan’s relations with neighboring countries, particularly Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, deteriorated. The borders largely closed in the 1990s, rendering a number of major roads inaccessible around the Fergana Valley. The border crossings on the A376 route via Khujand were one of the few that remained open. However, Uzbekistan did not want to depend on a drive through Tajikistan to reach its densely populated Fergana Valley, as a result, the A373 over Kamchik Pass was extensively upgraded to a 2×2 lane road in the second half of the 1990s. This was one of the few significant road projects in the first 15 years after independence.

In 2009, President Karimov announced a $2.6 billion investment to widen 1,200 kilometers of road to 2×2 lanes through 2014. This program ran until about 2016, but resulted in a large network of 2×2 lane roads, especially in the eastern half of Uzbekistan, but also the A380 to Karakalpakstan in the west of the country. This provided all major cities and through roads with 2×2 lanes. In and around Tashkent, quite a few city roads have been improved and a number of new 2×2 roads built in the period up to 2020, but a good upgrade of the Ring Tashkent or a new more modern ring highway has not yet got off the ground.

Border crossings

The original (blue) and later (red) route of the M-41 around the Fergana Valley.

After the fall of the Soviet Union, the complex borders of Central Asia turned out to be a major problem. For example, the important transit route M39 came to lie for 24 kilometers through Kazakhstan. The borders may have remained open for some time after independence, but eventually closed. No border crossings have been built either, the M39 can no longer be driven through here. Through traffic has since been routed via the M34 past Gulistan, and since 2010 on the 2×2 lane A373, which forms a bypass of Kazakhstan. Elsewhere there were more roads that suddenly came to lie in both countries, part of which has been broken up on the border. In 2002, the entire 2,440 kilometer border between Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan was formally established.

Due to ethnic conflicts over the unclearly defined borders in the Fergana Valley and alleged terrorism from Tajikistan, relations between Uzbekistan and its eastern neighbors deteriorated to such an extent that Uzbekistan closed almost all border crossings in the 1990s. Of the 16 border crossings with Tajikistan, only 2 were still open. All border crossings with Kyrgyzstan were also closed. Uzbekistan also started laying landmines in the border area with Tajikistan.

Closing the border had major social and economic consequences. Families could no longer reach each other and natural markets were reduced, this particularly affected Kyrygzstan, where the second city of Osh suddenly lost a large part of its hinterland in the Fergana Valley. In addition, there were complex borders with enclaves of Uzbekistan in Kyrgyzstan, which were no longer accessible by road. However, these exclaves are not provided with border posts, so that despite the presence of Uzbek authorities there were no physical borders. Traffic on the Kyrgyz EM-16 was particularly affected by the closed borders. A whole series of bypasses was constructed for this purpose. This also applied to the interrupted parts of the ex-M41 (now EM-04) around the eastern side of the Fergana Valley.

After Karimov’s death in 2016, foreign relations improved significantly under his successor Mirziyoyev. Most borders were reopened and Uzbekistan even took the lead, with new border crossings on almost all previously interrupted roads, largely inaugurated in 2017-2018. However, the construction of border posts on the Tajik and Kyrgyz side did not go equally fast everywhere, so that the new border crossings did not immediately become functional. In 2019, a modernized border crossing to Beyneu opened in the far northwest of Uzbekistan. This border crossing is the closest to Europe, 500 kilometers from the border town of Atyrau in Kazakhstan.

Toll roads

Tolls have to be paid on a number of major roads in Uzbekistan.

An approximately 290 km long toll road is planned between Tashkent and Samarkand. An approximately 360 km long 2×2 lane toll road is also planned between Tashkent and Andijan.

Fuel

A large proportion of motor vehicles in Uzbekistan run on methane or propane, regular petrol and diesel are sometimes difficult to obtain. Uzbekistan has also experienced periods of fuel shortages after 2010 due to a low level of investment in the oil and gas industry. In 2020, Uzbekistan started producing winter diesel. Travelers sometimes rely on the black market for diesel and gasoline, which are often of poor quality.

Road management

The road authority of Uzbekistan is the Ministry of Transport (Uzbek: O’zbekistion Respublikasi Transport Vazirligi). The actual road management lies with the road committee, in full O’zbekiston Respublikasi Avtomobil yo’llari davlat qo’mitasi, abbreviated Uzavtoyul.

Main roads

The M and A roads of Uzbekistan.

# No. Route Length
M34 Tashkent – Yangiyul – Chinoz – Syrdarya – Gulistan – Khavas – Tajikistan border 160 km
M37 Samarkand – Ishtikhon – Kattakurgan – Karmana – Bukhara – Alat – Turkmenistan border 415 km
M39 Border Kazakhstan – Tashkent – Chinaz – Jizzakh – Samarkand – Shakrisabz – Guzar – Termez 725 km
M41 Border Tajikistan – Denau – Jarqurghon – Termez 191 km
A373 Sardoba – Boka – Ahangaron – Angren – Kokand – Shahrihan – Andijan – Kyrgyzstan border 586 km
A376 Kokand – Besharik – Tajikistan border // Tajikistan border – Bekabad – Havos – Jizzakh 179 km
A377 Samarkand – Tajikistan border 37 km
A378 Samarkand – Guzar 152 km
A379 Navoi – Zarafshan – Uchkuduk 289 km
A380 Guzar – Bukhara – Nukus – border Kazakhstan 1258 km
A381 Khojayli – border Turkmenistan 12 km
Major Roads in Uzbekistan

European roads

European roads in Uzbekistan
E40 • E60 • E123 • E003 • E004 • E005 • E006 • E007

Asian Highways

Asian Highways in Uzbekistan
AH5 • AH7 • AH62 • AH63 • AH65

Maximum speed

The speed limit in Uzbekistan is 70 km/h in built-up areas and 100 km/h outside built-up areas. Uzbekistan may have the world’s highest speed limit in built-up areas. The maximum speed outside built-up areas is 90 km/h for buses, 80 km/h for small trucks and 70 km/h for large trucks with trailer.

Road numbering

Like several countries in Central Asia, Uzbekistan still has the old Soviet numbering system, with the result that cross-border roads keep the same number. There are M-A and R roads. Road numbers are indicated in Cyrillic, so the R is shown as P. The road numbering was still established by law in 2010 with the Soviet numbers.

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.

Uzbekistan Road Network